If you’ve ever struggled with a sore back, you’re not alone. Did you know that back pain is the number one reason people have to stay home from work? In the US, it’s the second most common reason people visit the doctor, the second most common cause of disability and, at some point in life, almost 80% of the population go through a bout of lower back pain.
Anyone who’s ever experienced it can tell you it hurts. As painful as it can be, according to the American Chiropractic Association, most low back pain is not critical or life-threatening. In other words, most of the cases are not due to fractures, inflammatory arthritis, infections, cancer, or similar causes.
It’s wise to consult a doctor to determine whether or not the nature of your pain is serious. If it’s not life-threatening or critical, there are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent pain and help you feel stronger.
Here are some good places to start.
Easy Does It
Sometimes what we think our body can endure, may land us in hot water. For example, pulling all-nighters slumped over a computer, going all day without taking a breather, exercising until our muscles are on fire, or pushing ourselves over the edge. We think if we somehow overdo it, then we will get the results. But it’s a gamble. Physically, mentally, and often emotionally, we risk overburdening ourselves. The body tries to compensate but finally something has to give. Oftentimes, it’s our back.
Be kind to your back. A good night’s rest, taking breaks throughout the day (think stretch, breath, meditate), and backing off before you push too hard during exercise, can go a long way in helping you feel your best. In other words, exercise a little prudence and common sense.
Be practical about it. There are so many ways you can begin to take pressure off your back and give it the rest it needs. One way is investing in a comfortable ergonomic chair to support the natural curves in your spine. Another is getting some orthopedic inserts that are specifically made for your feet. Maybe think about losing those extra pounds that weigh you down.
Although over-exercising can make the problem worse, thoughtful and focused exercise can help relieve back problems. Low impact exercise, like walking and yoga, help increase blood flow to the spine, which in turn lubricates your joints and muscles, supplying them with healing nutrients. It also strengthens and stretches the muscles that help support the back.
Finding a physiotherapist, or qualified yoga instructor, to determine how and which areas to strengthen, is a positive step. As you learn, you grow. You become your own healing advocate. You can begin to do daily exercises on your own that help prevent future pain. Connecting with someone who can help you get to that point is an important part of your journey too. Once you find that person, take advantage of what they know. Ask questions, research for yourself, and stay positive determined. Learning how to exercise for your particular body is a lifelong investment, and something that can make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing.
Sometimes we accept a little bit of muscle pain in our effort to strengthen physically. However, pushing through sharp pain is not recommended and is a clear sign to back off. The goal is to stay active without making the problem worse.
Keep Inflammation Down
Once inflammation has started, there are various ways to relieve it, like cold/heat therapy. However it’s good to take a proactive approach in reducing the causes of the inflammation before it becomes an issue. Here are some important things you can do:
- Eliminate toxins – regularly clear away toxins from pollution, pesticides, allergens, and poor food choices. Toxins put a burden on your internal organs which in turn can cause inflammation and lower immunity. Cleansing or freeing the body of toxins doesn’t have to be intense or austere. There are simple ways that you can help your body detoxify. A yoga diet and lifestyle naturally encourages a cleaner body and a more relaxed mind.
- Omega 3’s – make sure you’re getting them! Add foods rich in omega 3 to your diet, like flax, chia, hemp, dark leafy greens, mung beans, cauliflower, and winter squash.
- Avoid inflammatory foods – Processed grains like white flour (especially baked goods and yeasty breads), processed sugar, alcohol, meat, caffeine, and too much dairy, can all cause inflammation. Avoid them as much as possible.
- Water, water, water – drinking plenty of pure water flushes out toxins, hydrates muscles, keeps elimination smooth and regular, and is essential for living as pain-free as possible.