Back pain, one of the most common physical, and debilitating ailments today, affects 70% – 80% of us at one time or another in our lives. However, as a result of the obesity epidemic, that number continues to climb. So if you are suffering or have suffered from back pain, you are not alone!
Back pain suffers, resulting from wear and tear and the aging process, generally are over 40 years of age; but it is not uncommon for individuals in the 30’s to experience back challenges. The complex spine changes during aging at varying rates from individual to individual as determined by genetic factors, lifestyle choices, and prior injuries.
Just remember, the odds are in your favor that you will experience some sort of back pain in the future. So what do you do when that happens, and how do you prevent it from happening again? There lies two, seventy two million dollar questions.
First off, don’t panic! Over 95% of back pain does not require surgery, and will subside on its own anywhere from a couple of days to months. With the back, it is rather tricky to predict how quickly it will heal. Be patient, and keep positive!
Please be aware that some chronic back conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylosis, and osteoarthritis may never completely heal without a physicians care. Symptoms generally come and go, and then come and go again, where the recipient learns to manage the condition with medication, exercise, physical therapy, spinal blocks, and/or surgical intervention. Treatment all depends on the severity of the condition as determined by the physician’s interpretation of the X-Ray, and/or MRI.
1. Avoid motions that irritate it, but don’t stay in bed for days on end which will weaken you
2. Ice for the first 48 hours, then apply a heating pad thereafter. 15-20 minutes at a time
3. See your doctor if pain persists longer than 1 week.
4. Follow pain medication recommendations (such as NSAIDS)
5. Light massage, and pain free range of motion stretching
6. Light walking (no hills) can help
7. Physical Therapy- massage, electric muscle stimulation, ice, heat, exercise, stretching
8. Pool therapy
9. Don’t panic! Be patient! Most cases will get better over time.
10. KEEP MOVING (pain free movement) is the KEY!
Now that you are managing your back pain, let’s focus on preventing it from occurring again. Depending upon the severity of your specific back condition, you can decrease the chance of returning pain, manage ongoing pain, or possibly prevent a reoccurrance. But HOW?
“The Secret Answer” – EXERCISE CORE MUSCLES in synergy with your particular condition.
Your goal should be to safely strengthen your core muscles to the max. The core muscles keep you upright, balanced, and able to maintain your spine in a stable position. The muscles that need to be worked are the back, legs, abdominals, and hips. By keeping these muscles strong, and flexible, it will provide a more secure base adding protection for a vulnerable spine. Warning: if you don’t strengthen your core, the older you get, the weaker your muscles become, and the more vulnerable you will be to pain.
When I mention exercise the core, I am referring to doing the proper exercises for specific conditions. It is impossible for me to tailor this prevention protocol for everyone, since each person needs their own specific program with medical team input. However, I will give you a few basic back strengthening tips. In correlation with your specific condition, you must clear specific exercises with your health care team.
1. Stay active – use back smart exercises on a regular basis
**I will be listing specific back smart exercises in future editions of the multimedia Wellness WORD Newsletter.
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2. While walking and exercising, maintain proper spinal alignment (good posture)
3. Keep your weight under control
4. Don’t smoke
5. Strengthen your core muscles
6. Keep the muscles limber and stretched
7. Do cardiovascular exercise ( ex. walk) on a regular basis.
8. Lift with proper form (use legs); proper spinal alignment
9. Contract abdominals throughout the day to protect spine as well as strengthen supporting muscles
10. Avoid the following:
Straight leg sit-ups
Bent leg sit-ups during acute pain
Leg lifts (lifting both legs while lying on your back)
Walking at a high incline
Lifting heavy weights above your waist (shoulder press, standing bicep curl)
Any stretches done while sitting with your legs in a V position
Toe touches while standing
Running or repetitive stair climbing
Excessive spine twisting, and bending
My intention for writing this article is to inform you there is hope. You can get over back pain, and do certain things to prevent it from returning, or returning with more intense symptoms.
Note: Please consult a physician for clearance prior to starting an exercise program.