According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80 percent of U.S. adults will develop low back pain. The consequences of pain in any region of the back include people missing work, being unable to participate in favorite recreational activities, having trouble sleeping and generally experience a lower quality of life.
The first order of business is learning what you can do to relieve back pain. Following are 15 daily habits that you can adopt to help to minimize back pain while at home or at work.
Posture, Posture, Posture
Adapting the real estate profession’s adage of “location, location, location,” think “posture, posture, posture” to reduce back pain. Poor posture is a top culprit for causing and aggravating back pain, especially for today’s workers who sit for hours without a break. Over time, the spine compresses and muscles can weaken due to gravity, age and disease, but slouching is on the list of causes too.
1. Sit properly
Do you know how to reduce lower back pain while sitting at work or at home? One of the first lessons on how to prevent back pain at work when sitting for long periods of times is to not slouch. Keep the cervical (upper spine and neck) and lumbar (lower spine) curves aligned. Sit at your desk or at home with your back flush against the chair, shoulders relaxed but pulled back, knees level with or below the hips and forearms parallel to the floor. The goal is to relieve pressure on the lower back muscles by keeping the spine in its natural alignment.
2. Walk and stand with the spine in alignment
Slouching while walking or standing, as well as sitting, can cause and increase back pain. Once again, you want to keep your spine in alignment. Stand or walk with your back straight and shoulders tall. Keep knees slightly bent when standing.
3. Exercise to Strengthen the Spine and Back Muscles
It is easy to find a variety of targeted back exercises online today. Take advantage of their availability to better manage back pain.
4. Do exercises to lengthen the spine and reduce muscle tension
Regularly do activities like yoga moves and back stretching exercises.
5. Do exercises that strengthen core muscles
Strong core muscles give more support to the spine.
6. Take frequent breaks from sitting at work
Walk around during work breaks to minimize compression of the spine and loosen tense muscles.
Minimize Back Pain while Sleeping
Sleeping 7-8 hours every night is important for many reasons. Getting enough sleep reduces the risk of developing conditions, like heart disease and high blood pressure, and improves cognitive functioning. What you may not know is that sleep is also critical to growing and healing muscles, and to muscle performance. Research, like the findings reported in the Sleep Medicine article “The Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Pain Perception in Healthy Subjects: A Meta-analysis” (Sleep Med. 2015;16(11):1313-20), has found that sleep disruption increases chronic back pain.
7. Get adequate sleep
Getting enough sleep every night is crucial to healing injured muscles and reducing back pain. Large amounts of important hormones are produced while sleeping. They include growth hormones, necessary for healthy cell reproduction, and cortisol which reduces inflammation and supports muscle strength.
8. Sleep in a pain-reducing position
You can relieve lower back pain while sleeping simply by changing the body’s position. You may have a favorite sleeping position, and that position may be a source of back pain or is making back pain worse. Sleeping on your back can flatten the spine, unless you provide additional support that maintains alignment of the head, neck and spine. If you really prefer to sleep on your back, then keep your head aligned with the spine, instead of tilted, and place a pillow under the knees to relive spinal pressure. For most people with back pain, the best sleeping position is on their side with knees slightly bent and a pillow placed between the knees.
9. Stretch back muscles close to bedtime
Doing stretches to relieve back pain right before going to bed gives you a head start in relieving muscle tension.
10. Adhere to an “unwind routine” before bedtime
Going to bed with tense muscles is a recipe for experiencing more back pain. Choose your favorite way to unwind so you stick with the plan. It could be something like a soak in a tub of warm water or listening to calming music. It is your life and your choice.
Live a Healthier Life
You can reduce the level of back pain at home or at work by paying attention to your habits, movements and positions throughout the day.
11. Lighten the loads carried throughout the day
A key to knowing how to stop back pain at home is lessening the weight of loads carried throughout the day. Typical loads include a handbag, backpack, books, or pots of soil for gardening. Regularly carrying items that weigh a lot will stress the back.
12. Correctly lift and position the loads
For example, backpacks should not be slung over one shoulder. Always use both straps. If you regularly carry infants or young children, avoid balancing the child on one hip or using one arm. Instead, center the child on your body while he or she is facing backwards. At work, lift loads properly and always take advantage of assistive devices and gear when possible.
13. Use daily relaxation techniques
Relaxation strategies, like meditation, will relieve physical and mental stress. Stress hormones increase muscle tension.
14. Drink 8 cups of water every day
Water is needed to keep spinal discs hydrated and muscles from becoming stiff.
15. Wear appropriate shoes
Your shoe choices play a major role in back alignment and in cushioning against repetitive impact on the spine during any activity. Wear athletic shoes with appropriate cushioning for walking. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes because they angle feet, creating tension in the neck, spine and shoulders. Ensure your shoes give the right arch support to maintain alignment of the legs and back.
16. Quit smoking
The US National Library of Medicine has published the results of numerous research projects that found a significant association between smoking and back pain. Nicotine increases pro-inflammatory cytokines which in turn amplifies pain. Smoking also increases inflammation throughout the body, and that increases the level of muscle pain in the back.
Living a Life that Minimizes Back Pain
Most people will experience back pain at some point in their life. It is important to know how to optimally manage pain at work and at home to minimize its impact on your life. Developing the daily habits known known to prevent or minimize back pain is a winning strategy. You will experience less pain and live a healthier life.