Eight Ways to Prevent Back Pain
Did you know that most cases of back pain can be prevented? What's more, most cases of back pain go away by themselves - without special prescription drugs, doctor-prescribed physical therapy, and especially without surgery.
Here are eight steps you can take to prevent back pain from occurring at all and to help your back pain heal more quickly.
Do a 14-day course of NSAIDs. NSAIDs stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and include aspirin, Motrin, and Aleve. To completely resolve the inflammation, take daily NSAIDs for two full weeks - even if your back pain disappears earlier.
Take a preventive anti-inflammatory. If you usually get a backache pain after leaf blowing, skiing, or snow shoveling, take a NSAID before the activity.
Follow a "healthy back" diet. Keep inflammation at bay with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and water. Cut down on beef, and avoid high-fat dairy, sugar, and processed foods. Spine-strengthening foods high in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D include spinach, black beans, broccoli, halibut, shellfish, whole grains, nonfat dairy, sardines, salmon, and soymilk.
Stop smoking. Smokers have a much higher incidence of back pain than nonsmokers because nicotine restricts the flow of blood to the discs that cushion your vertebrae.
Exercise regularly. People who engage in regular low-impact exercise such as swimming, walking, and bicycling are less likely to have back pain than those who with a sedentary lifestyle. Other great back exercises include yoga, which increases flexibility, and Pilates, which strengthens abdominal and back muscles.
Lift wisely. Everyday activities such as lifting groceries out of your trunk are the most common ways people "throw their back out." Here are some tips: Place your foot on the bumper of your car for support if the bumper is not too high. Store items in the trunk close to the bumper. Lift items onto the car frame first and then lift them from the car frame to your arms. To reach something located deep inside the trunk, brace yourself on the car with one arm while reaching. When lifting something heavy off the ground, bend your knees, not your back, and use your leg muscles for lifting.
Create a back-friendly workspace. Sit in a desk chair with a straight back or low-back support. Keep your knees a little higher than your hips, or use a footstool to prop your feet on. Move your whole body when you turn--don't twist at your waist.
Sleep on your side. Lie on your side with both knees bent the same amount, and place a pillow between them. Sleeping on your back puts 55 pounds of pressure on your back.
Johns Hopkins surgeons Ziya Gokaslan, MD, and Lee Hunter Riley III, MD, are nationally recognized leaders in the field of spinal surgery and authors of The Back Book (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).