Eight out of every 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. An estimated one in three sufferers find the symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives, including interfering with work. These figures come at no surprise, as back problems are more or less an accepted part of modern life.
What’s perhaps more surprising is that nearly nine in 10 sufferers never discover the primary cause of their condition, which makes it almost impossible to find a suitable cure. For the vast majority of patients, treating back pain is all about the reduction of symptoms, allowing you to lead as normal a life as possible while your body works to heal itself.
Here’s how to do that with some simple lifestyle changes that don’t require medical intervention.
1. Light Exercise
When you’re stricken with painful back spasms, exercise of any kind may not feel like the right thing to do. However, staying active as long as possible is one of the best ways to counteract the symptoms of chronic backache. Light exercise, such as walking or swimming will strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments to help support your spine in a natural way.
It’s important not to exercise your way through acute pain, as you don’t want to risk further damage. Make use of relatively pain-free periods to tone your back and reduce the recurrence of symptoms in the future.
2. Pain Management
Sometimes your back pain will feel debilitating regardless of what measures you take to control it. In these situations, soothing the discomfort is important. Pain and stiffness can quickly become a vicious circle where you’re too tense from the pain and immobile from the stiffness to release the spasms. Medication is often the only option here. When taking medication for pain, be careful that you’re not simply masking the symptoms and making them worse by moving when you should be resting.
For a more natural treatment, try alternating between hot water bottles and ice packs, pressing them into the painful area for ten minutes each whenever the discomfort becomes too great. Try relaxing in warm Epsom salt baths to ease muscle pain. A Registered Massage Therapist can also work wonders (Try Evolve’s Registered Massage and Hot Stone Massage therapy sessions.). Some people find that acupuncture and chiropractic therapy offer relief. Try a variety of therapies that won’t further aggravate your condition until you find what works for you.
Lastly, trying to relax as much as possible is important although naturally this is difficult when you’re in pain. Tension, stress and anxiety all tighten your neck and shoulders, putting extra strain on your back. This can cause you to tense up, further exacerbating the problem. Yoga (try Evolve’s Gentle Hatha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Relax & Rejuvenate by Candlelight Yoga classes), meditation (try Evolve’s meditation class), aromatherapy, breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can all be of great help during a painful episode.
4. Pay Attention to Posture
Light exercise will help to improve your posture, but it’s also important to be mindful of how you’re sitting and standing throughout the day. Try to avoid putting your back under too much strain. If you feel yourself slouching or bending, try pushing your shoulders outward and backward to gently move your spine into a straighter position.
5. Take Care with Sitting
More than half of people with backache symptoms report that they spend the majority of their day sitting down with poor sitting habits often playing a major role in the worsening of symptoms. If you spend your working days at a desk, it makes sense to invest in an ergonomic office chair to provide proper support for your back. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. It’s important, however, to always choose a solid chair that’s not too soft and giving and that supports your lumbar region.
It’s essential to make sure your chair is properly adjusted for height; your arms and thighs should be in a right angle position when sitting comfortably at your desk with your hands on your keyboard or desktop. Try keeping your shoulders relaxed yet upright and remember to get up from your desk and walk a few steps at least once an hour to reduce muscle cramping.
Back pain sufferers need to sleep like anyone else, but spending up to eight hours a night in a soft or lumpy bed isn’t ideal for the lumbar region. Your mattress should be reasonably firm so your body doesn’t sink into it and you should try to sleep on your back, which is the best position for relieving back pain. Although it may be relaxing to read in bed before sleep, this habit is particularly bad for your posture, so try to do your late night reading in a comfortable armchair instead.
7. Slim Down a Little
There’s no need to panic about carrying a few extra pounds, but being overweight will put extra strain on your back. Making the effort to shed even a little extra weight will help. If you’re already suffering from back problems, the extra misery of a crash diet is probably not the answer. By bringing the yoga mindset into your eating routine, you can transform your body into its healthiest version.
8. Quit Smoking
If you smoke, you’re probably already well aware of the many good reasons to kick the habit. However, you may not know that smoking can also contribute to backache among all the other health problems it causes. Not only can smoking cause degeneration in the spinal discs, but every bout of coughing places extra strain on your back and can quickly lead to spasms when you already have a weakness.
9. Comfortable Footwear
Poorly fitting footwear that makes it difficult to balance will eventually create problems, such as back spasms and back pain. Specially made orthopedic shoes can be extremely helpful, but even padded insoles can help correct poor walking posture. Avoid high heels whenever possible. If you must wear them, switch to flats when you can, i.e. when you’re sitting at your work desk.
Back pain can quickly make life a misery. Surgical treatments are to be considered if no primary cause can be found, but they are a gamble at best. Thankfully, making these simple lifestyle changes can reduce back problems to a level where they don’t interfere too much with daily life, allowing your body the chance to heal naturally.