The Truth Behind Back Pain

man holding lower back appearing to be in pain, backache( — Every single day, almost all of us put strain on our backs performing routine behaviors and motions. Over time, picking up your shoes the floor or throwing a bag over your shoulder won’t be so easy, and may be accompanied by some serious back pain.

But with some awareness of how your daily tasks can affect your back, and a few simple changes, you can prevent yourself from suffering through one of the most common chronic pains.

A firm mattress is best for your back…

Myth. A superfirm mattress might actually be the source of your back problems.  A too-soft mattress won’t offer enough support for your back.  On the other hand, a rock-hard one can increase pressure on the spine. Trying to find a mattress to accommodate your back problem can seem like looking for a needle in the haystack.  If an expensive adjustable mattress isn’t an option, look into modifying your current mattress.  Consider buying a mattress pad to soften a too-firm mattress or a bed board to add some rigidity to one that’s too soft.

Lifting heavy objects will strain your back…

Myth. It’s not necessarily how much you lift, but how you lift that makes the difference. The proper form to avoid injury is to: keep your back straight, grab the object, bring it close to your body, and then stand. You should be lifting with your lower body muscles (thigh and butt).

Back pain isn’t always caused by an injury…

Fact. According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, women who feel overwhelmed at home or work are more two times more likely to have lower-back pain. Mental stress causes muscle fibers to tighten and over time it wears those fibers down and leaves you at greater risk for injury. What’s more is that your body’s natural response to stress is to increase muscle tension which makes existing back problems even worse. When you feel stress coming on, take some time out to relax. A hot bath or shower can relax your back muscle fibers. To boost the stress-relief benefits even more, use lavender-scented bath beads or soap.  The calming scent lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Sitting up straight keeps your spine in line…

Myth. Your mom was right about sitting up straight.  It’s good for your back; but sitting up too straight puts a lot of stress on the disks in your back, especially when you sit for a long time. Adjust your posture a few times daily.  Lean back in your chair with your with your feet on the ground and make sure there’s a slight curve in your lower back.  Sitting this way distributes your body weight more evenly and takes some of the pressure off your spine. If you often end up slouching at your desk by the end of the day, consider using a cushion to support your lower back.  Also make sure to take a break from sitting every half hour, even if it’s just standing during a phone call to get some circulation going.

Exercise is actually good for your back…

Fact. Exercise strengthens your back muscles and increases blood flow to the disks, helping them withstand daily strain. Regular exercise helps prevent obesity which is a major contributor to back pain. A study in the journal Spine revealed that overweight people were nearly three times more likely to go to the hospital with a back injury than those at a healthy weight. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine will help strengthen your back without putting excess pressure on your disks or joints.

Make sure to warm up with at least 15 minutes of light cardio to increase blood flow to back muscles, and no matter what muscle groups you are working on keep your back straight.


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