Do you suffer from back pain? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, back pain is one of the most common causes of missed work and one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Fortunately, you can take preventative measures to alleviate most back pain episodes and reduce the risk of injury to prevent recurrence.
What are the symptoms?
Most people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, and the signs and symptoms can range in intensity from mild to severe. The most common signs and symptoms of back pain include:
Shooting or stabbing pain
Pain that radiates down the leg
Pain that worsens when bending, lifting, standing or walking
Pain that improves when lying down
What are the causes?
Back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts no longer than six weeks (acute) may be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain that lasts longer than three months (chronic) is less common than acute pain. Conditions commonly associated with back pain include:
Strained muscles or ligaments
Bulging or ruptured intervertebral discs
Injuries to ligaments, muscles and tendons
Irregularities of the skeleton
Accidents and injuries
Lifestyle triggers, such as sitting at a desk, lifting heavy objects, being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking, and wearing high heels
What are the risk factors?
Anyone can get back pain, including children and teenagers. The following are the most common factors that can increase the risk of back pain:
Lack of exercise
How do you prevent back pain?
There are many ways to relieve back pain or prevent its recurrence by improving your physical condition. Consider these factors to help prevent back pain:
Regular exercise (physical activity) is one of the best things you can do for yourself, whether you have health problems or are healthy and want to stay that way. A regular exercise program can have many benefits, such as relieving pain and stiffness, strengthening muscles and bones, burning calories, improving mobility, increasing energy, improving sleep, elevating mood, increasing well-being, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and also certain cancers.
If you have severe back pain and find it hard to imagine exercising, talk to your orthopedist or physical therapist about exercises that might be right for you.
To prevent back pain, it’s important to know how to sit, stand, walk and lift properly. Bad habits such as slouching in a chair, standing with a flat back, leaning on one leg, thrusting your chin forward, holding your phone, etc. can put tension on your spine and lead to back pain.
Proper posture requires adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal movement of joints in the spine and other areas of the body, and efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. In addition, you need to identify your postural habits at home and at work and correct them as necessary.
Excessive body weight shifts the center of gravity forward, placing additional stress on the lower back. Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight can reduce your risk for back pain.
Controlling weight through diet, nutrition and exercise can not only relieve existing back pain, but also help prevent certain types of back problems in the future. For example, overweight and obese people are at increased risk for osteoarthritis. The added stress on joints from being overweight can lead to arthritis in people with too high a body mass index (BMI).
Food for Stronger Bones
Getting enough calcium and vitamin can help keep your bones strong and reduce your risk of Osteoporosis, which can lead to painful and sometimes debilitating fractures of the vertebrae – the individual, interlocking bones that form the spinal column.
Calcium: If you are between the ages of 19 and 50, you need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. If you are 51 or older, you need 1,200 mg daily. If you already have osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend that you get more calcium. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, canned salmon with bones and green leafy vegetables. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, speak to your doctor about a calcium supplement.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for your spine because it helps your body use the calcium you get from foods to make bones stronger. Your body makes vitamin D in response to sunlight on your skin. If you spend little time outdoors or wear a strong sunscreen when you go out, you may need more Vitamin D than your body makes. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks and grain products. You may also want to ask your doctor if you need a vitamin D supplement.
Sometimes preventing or easing back pain is as simple as wearing the right pair of footwear, particularly if you spend a lot of time standing or walking. Shoes with high heels and uneven wear can abstract your posture, resulting in unnecessary stress on your back.
For example, high heels can throw off alignment and add extra stress and strain on the lower back. Flip flops, at the other extreme, are so flat that the lack of support can lead to hip, knee and back pain.
Nicotine in tobacco restricts blood flow to the disks that cushion your vertebrae and increases the rate of degeneration. This loss of cushioning can cause back pain. Smoking also reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with an increased risk for Osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) and slower healing after bone fractures, which can cause back pain.
Additionally, if you need back surgery, smoking can interfere with healing. Spinal surgeries performed in smokers are significantly more likely to fail than the same surgery in nonsmokers.
Remember, any back pain that occurs more than once from no specific cause is a reason to consult a doctor. If you are experiencing occasional episodes of acute back pain, consult an Orthopedic Surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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