You’ve probably heard the joke about the human back being a “design disaster.” It can certainly seem this way when you experience severe back pain over something like turning slightly wrong while doing a normal activity. Nearly everyone experiences back pain at some point in their life. Even young people can injure a disc or pull a muscle. The human spine is an amazing feat of engineering, but it can also be fragile.
Here are six things no one ever told you about how to avoid back pain:
1. Move More
Muscles are meant to move. A sedentary lifestyle causes the muscles in your back to weaken. Weak muscles don’t do a good job of protecting your spine from strain. They are also more likely to get torn or pulled.
Exercise might seem like a minefield if you have chronic back problems, but there are safe ways to work out. Consult a chiropractor or personal trainer before you start a workout routine. Keeping correct form during strength training, wearing the right shoes, and warming up correctly will help to prevent injury. Water-based activities are ideal for people who struggle with back or joint problems. You can strengthen muscles and burn calories while swimming or doing water aerobics without putting strain on your spine and joints.
Making time to work out or be active every day will strengthen muscles, increase blood flow and keep your joints lubricated. It can also help prevent you from becoming overweight. Extra weight puts a strain on your back and joints.
2. Take Care of Your Gut
A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and clean protein is good for your whole body, including your back. Your diet directly affects your gut health, which in turn affects your immune system and nervous system. An unhealthy gut can lead to more inflammation and increased pain sensitivity. Chiropractors have noticed that many people with back pain also have digestive problems. An imbalance inflammatory response caused by an unhealthy bowel makes you more prone to injury and pain. This can become a vicious cycle, as subluxations in the lower spine can cause or worsen digestive issues.
Eating plenty of fiber and foods that contain probiotics, like yogurt and sauerkraut, helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Your microbiome is made up of good bacteria and other microorganisms that help digest and even manufacture nutrients, aid your immune system and produce neurotransmitters. If your microbiome is out of whack, you will feel the consequences throughout your entire body.
3. Get Preventative Back Care
We all know that it’s important to receive preventative health care such as cancer screenings and routine blood tests. Catching and treating health problems in the early stages can prevent conditions from becoming debilitating or life-threatening. The same goes for back care.
Your back goes through a lot. It supports your weight, cushions your body from the shock of movement, and puts up with you slouching over your phone. Daily stresses need to be addressed and treated by a chiropractor before they lead to chronic pain or severe injury.
Regular spinal adjustment can keep your back and nervous system functioning optimally. It’s even been shown to boost the immune system. Treat your back like you treat the rest of your body and make preventative care part of your routine.
4. Quit Smoking
You may expect to see this listed under ways to prevent cancer or heart disease, but back pain? Really? It may seem odd, but smoking is linked to persistent back pain. Blood flow is a vital part of your body’s healing processes. Areas of the body that naturally receive less blood flow, like tendons or spinal discs, are more prone to injury and slower to heal. Most treatments meant to encourage healing also help to increase blood flow—compression, laser therapy, and spinal decompression therapy all increase blood flow to the injured area.
Smoking can cause blood vessels to narrow or even harden over time. This decreases blood flow and makes you more prone to injury and slower to heal. Quitting can reduce your risk of chronic back pain (and many other serious health issues.)
5. Reduce Stress
Our muscles, tendons, and joints are all affected by stress. Many people notice tight, sore muscles in their shoulders after a stressful day. Chronic stress can cause muscles to tighten and shorten. This makes them more prone to injury and can even push vertebrae out of alignment. Tight, inflamed muscles can also press on nerves and cause pain that radiates away from the source. Tension headaches are often caused by tightening of the muscles in the shoulders and neck due to stress.
Yoga, meditation, and exercise are great ways to reduce the toll that stress takes on your body. Purposefully releasing pent-up stress from your muscles can improve both your physical and mental health. The stress we hold in our bodies can make it difficult to relax our minds, and vice versa.
Depression and anxiety have also been linked with chronic physical pain, including back pain. Researchers don’t know all the reasons for this, but it is clear that taking care of your mental health can benefit your physical health. The reverse is also true. When your spine is aligned and healthy, your nervous system functions better. Many patients report feeling more relaxed after a spinal adjustment.
6. Support Your Back in Bed
We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, so it’s no wonder that how we sleep can affect our backs. You don’t need to buy the most expensive mattress. You can make your bed more back-friendly with a few simple tips.
If you tend to sleep on your side, make sure your neck is aligned correctly. You’ll need a pillow that’s thick enough to fill up the space between your shoulder and your head. You may also need to put a pillow between your knees to keep your lower back in alignment.
Stomach sleeping can be hard on your body, but supporting your abdomen with a pillow will reduce strain on your back. Back sleepers should put a pillow under their knees to support the curve in their lower back. You may also want to roll a small towel up under your neck for extra support.
A medium-firm mattress that offers support without putting pressure on your curves is ideal for most people with back pain. These sleeping tips can also help prevent back pain and injury, so don’t wait until you’re hurting to implement them.
At Stanlick Chiropractic, we offer treatment for those already dealing with back pain and preventative care for everyone who has a back. Don’t wait to be in pain before seeking care. Our experts can help you prevent pain and injury with in-office adjustments and lifestyle tips you can implement at home.