Back pain can take a number of forms, and it affects almost everyone at some point. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles, including the need to sit at a desk for much of the day, contribute to the occurrence of back pain, as can injury or other medical conditions, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
It can be difficult to prevent every kind of back pain; from the dull ache that comes with sitting too long and too often, to the sharp arching and burning of arthritis pain, to the shooting pains of a pulled muscle, the potential causes are numerous and sometimes hard to predict. However, having a strong foundation makes pain less likely to set in and allows for speedier recovery when it does: strengthening exercises and regular stretching help protect your back. Activities like yoga and pilates are great, but just giving your muscles regular use goes a long way toward keeping them in shape and makes it less likely that you’ll injure yourself by lifting or turning. Although you may need to rest for a day or two after injuring your back, regular activity is important, and so is maintaining a healthy diet – excess weight puts stress on joints and muscles.
Maintaining good posture is an often-overlooked method of pain prevention. Most people today spend a large part of their day hunched over a desk or table, or sitting in the car. Make a conscious effort to sit and stand up straight – this keeps back muscles strong and flexible, and helps align your spine correctly to minimize the risk of aches. Getting a chair that supports your middle and lower back can be helpful, and take regular breaks to stand, stretch, or walk around.
One thing you may not have considered is your sleeping posture: we spend so much time sleeping, the way our spines are aligned in those eight hours can have an affect on pain levels. The position of the pillow and the firmness of the mattress both affect the way the neck and spine are aligned or twisted. Many experts suggest sleeping on your side if possible, with knees drawn slightly toward your chest; however, if you prefer to sleep on your stomach, it can help to place a pillow under your hips, and if you sleep on your back, try placing one under your knees.
Finally, be smart when lifting: use your legs, not your back, to lift, don’t go too quickly, and know your limits – don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy.
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