When it comes to back pain, there are numerous causes that almost seem beyond our control: accidental injury, surgical operations, neurological conditions, arthritis, and simply just aging.
Other causes are well within our means to prevent, but either we get lazy or we simply do not know how to go about it. For now, we will be discussing ways to prevent and to nurture back pain by promoting healthy posture and spinal alignment.
Our spine runs from the base of the neck all the way down to the tailbone (sacrum) and is made up of bony structures called vertebrae. The vertebrae house our spinal cord and nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and feed into the rest of our body.
Between each vertebrae are tiny “cushions” called intervertebral discs that absorb movement through the spine like shock absorbers. The spine is completely surrounded by muscle tissue which is responsible for moving the spine and keeping the body erect.
With all of these anatomical elements, some things are bound to go wrong or fall apart as we age. Intervertebral discs start to wear, osteoporosis of the spine collapses or fractures vertebrae, back muscles give out, etc.
Anything that misaligns the spine can cause nerve impingements and overall pain throughout the back.
So, how can someone prevent back pain or strengthen their posture?
Rehab therapists often use what are called physical agent modalities (PAMS), some of which these items are now available for customers to purchase and to use privately in their own homes.
This includes E-stim machines, ultrasound machines, hot packs, and cold packs to name a few. Changing the temperature of muscle tissue calms nerve impulses and increases blood circulation to muscle tissue, which overall relieves pain.
• Back muscle strengthening:
Many individuals who work out regularly often focus on muscle groups on the front of their body (quads, abs, pecs, etc.) while ignoring the posterior aspects (i.e. back, buttocks, and hamstrings).
In order to promote a healthy posture, incorporate exercises that specifically target muscle groups of the back (i.e. levator scapulae, rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, teres muscles, and back extensors).
Consult with an athletic trainer, rehab specialist, or even conduct your own research online about safe exercises that target those muscles.
• Leg muscle recruitment:
Back muscles are very tiny compared to muscle groups in or quadriceps of the thighs. Many incidences of lower back pain can be reduced if individuals would use their thighs more than their back for daily activities.
This means keeping a slight bend in both knees during standing and walking tasks in order to decrease the work that your back muscles have to do.
Yoga and simple back stretches are very helpful in breaking up tension throughout muscles and joints in the back. If you have specific medical concerns about your back (i.e. osteoporosis, arthritis, fusions, nerve impingements, etc., consult with a doctor prior to regularly participating in a stretching regimen.
• Active awareness of body mechanics:
Back pain can oftentimes be prevented by actively being aware of our posture throughout the day. Make the conscious effort to prevent slouching or hunching forward.
Sit in chairs or sofas that promote an upright, comfortable posture. Lift heavier items with more leg power or using assistance from others. Wear orthopedic-friendly shoes that keep your feet close to the ground. Stand up and stretch every 15 minutes if you have a sedentary job or lifestyle.
• Massage and manipulation:
Treat yourself to a massage or a spinal alignment treatment. Having a professional manipulate your back and spine relieves pressure that you are unable to independently access and increases circulation throughout the muscle tissue.
Many professionals who specialize in back pain will often suggest trying several or all of these items. Relying on one item (like heat or ice) will only temporarily relieve pain rather than build up long-term postural control. Consult with a specialist and figure out what combination of techniques may be right for you.