The human back consists of the spine (with five distinct sections and 33 bones), the spinal cord (with five sections of nerves that branch off), and three different muscle groups. With so many fragile components, the back is notoriously susceptible to injuries.
According to Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, about 16 million American adults (eight percent of the adult population) experience chronic or persistent back pain, making it the sixth most costly condition in the U.S. Back pain can stem from a wide array of issues, such as muscle strain, ligament strain, bulging disks, ruptured disks, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
If you experience back pain or want to prevent damage down the line, you can make behavioral changes to ease the discomfort or reduce your risks. Regardless of your age, it’s never too early to start caring for your back with the following habits:
- Improve Your Posture
Maintaining poor posture can have a wide range of detrimental effects on the body. It can:
- Cause pain in your neck, shoulders, and back
- Wear away at the bones in your spine
- Misalign your musculoskeletal system
- Reduce your flexibility
- Disrupt your balance
- Make it more difficult to swallow food and breathe properly
Correcting poor posture requires constant awareness and the right tools. A few strategies for forming healthier habits—aside from performing posture exercises—include buying ergonomic furniture, wearable posture coaches, and shoe inserts.
- Try Yoga
Yoga is an excellent method to improve your body’s natural posture, soothe your back muscles, and increase flexibility. A few beginner poses that promote back health are the cow pose, bridge pose, camel pose, and the cat pose.
However, if you’re experiencing persistent back pain, you need to ensure that you’re practicing yoga safely and correctly so you don’t hurt yourself or add to your preexisting pain.
Although yoga can build your core strength and strengthen your back muscles, it can be too much for you if your back prevents you from doing many of the poses.
Instead of pushing your back too far by trying complex workout routines, you can start with simpler stretches to alleviate back pain. Stretches that put less strain on the body include the knee-to-chest stretch, pelvic stretches, and toe stretches.
- Manage Your Weight
Maintaining an unhealthy weight can affect almost every organ in your body and improves your risk for back pain, muscle strain, and joint pain. When your body carries too much weight, it can pull your pelvis forward and put a strain on your back, changing its natural curve. It also causes excessive pressure on your joints and muscles, which can damage your spinal discs. For tips on weight loss and management, click here.
- Exercise More
Although you may think that if you have a backache, you should rest and take it easy, that usually isn’t the case, as exercise can reduce back pain and even eliminate acute back pain altogether. To work out without putting excessive strain on your back, you can swim laps or try the yoga poses described above.
- Ice and Heat
Hot or cold compresses help balance and accelerate blood flow to specific body parts and speed up recovery. As a rule of thumb, you should apply a cold pack for acute back pain and then a heat pack after the inflammation subsides. If you experience chronic back pain, use low-level heat as often as possible.
- Buy a Soothing Mattress
Sleeping on the wrong mattress can take a toll on your back, leading to misalignment or muscle strains. A “good” mattress with the right firmness or softness shouldn’t sag and should offer a comfortable amount of support for your specific back needs. If you think it’s time for an upgrade, consider investing in an air foam soothing mattress for adequate back support and pressure relief.
- See a Chiropractor
A chiropractor or trained specialist can utilize controlled force with their hands or an instrument to manipulate the spinal joint. You should consider visiting one if you’ve already tried the tips in this post, but they didn’t alleviate the pain, as your problem might be more ingrained.
Take Precautions During Recovery
While there are plenty of ways to improve or alleviate back pain, you must take the right precautions while you’re in pain. Avoid lifting heavy objects, or getting into awkward positions, or sitting for too long to speed up the recovery process.