Have you ever noticed that skyscrapers are straight? Surely you have, but you didn’t dwell on it too much because … well, of course they’re straight! They’re designed to stand up under all their weight, after all.
Unfortunately, the human spine isn’t so well designed. Your spine actually has an S-shaped profile, and any architect will tell you that profile falls very short of ideal when it comes to bearing weight.
Even if you spend a lifetime avoiding heavy exercise and manual labor, you are probably going to experience back pain. The World Health Organization estimates that 60 to 70 percent of people living in industrialized countries experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. And according to Georgetown University, nearly 65 million Americans have recently suffered from back pain. That’s roughly the entire population of the Midwest!
But your poorly designed spine is no excuse to adopt a defeatist mindset. There are things you can do – today – to help prevent future back pain.
Regular exercise has myriad health benefits. Whether you already have back pain or wish to prevent it, strengthening the muscles surrounding your spine is crucial. Even simple movements can cause injury if your extensor, flexor and oblique muscles are weak or tense, and regular exercise helps to keep the motion of your joints and limbs more fluid. Exercise can also help to keep your weight down, which will lessen the amount of stress your spinal column has to endure on a daily basis.
Do take care that certain exercises may actually exacerbate back pain. If you are new to exercise and would like guidance on how to begin safely benefitting from the practice, you would do very well to first consult a chiropractor. They can advise several health and wellness techniques in addition to a safe exercise regimen.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
Getting enough exercise doesn’t necessarily mean deadlifting 500 pounds. Light stretching and targeted exercises a couple days a week work just fine! Outside of the gym, try to avoid straining your back muscles by presenting them with too great a challenge. When you must lift something heavy, remember the old worker’s adage: Lift with your legs, not with your back!
Like exercise, quitting smoking brings many health benefits. Smokers experience more back pain than people who have quit smoking. This is because nicotine actively blocks blood flow to the vertebral discs, causing them to desiccate, fracture and even rupture. Tobacco smoke also deprives muscles of oxygen, thus gradually weakening them and increasing the likelihood of back pain.
Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture places significantly more strain on the spine and its surrounding muscles. Try to be cognizant when you stand, taking care to keep your shoulders back and your head up straight. If you spend a significant amount of time sitting, invest in a chair which supports your back and prevents you from adopting a slouching posture. Finally, get up and move around frequently! The discomfort you feel after remaining in the same position for an extended period of time is your body’s way of asking you to switch things up.
Find the Best Sleeping Position
Not all sleeping positions are created equal. If you spend your shuteye hours lying on your stomach, you are putting needless extra pressure on your lower back. Likewise, sleeping with your legs to the side places your spine in a twisted position. Lying flat on your back or on your side can keep your spine better aligned while you’re asleep, as can tucking a pillow beneath your knees.
Wear the Right Shoes
Fashionable though they might be, high-heeled shoes place immense strain on the spine. Shoes with heels 1″ or shorter are far more advisable. If you must wear high-heeled shoes, bring along a pair of comfortable flats or sneakers that you can change into as soon as possible.
Thin Out Your Wallet
Seinfeld fans will no doubt remember George Costanza’s famous jam-packed wallet. This gag is one of the few accurate chiropractic lessons ever demonstrated on NBC’s Must See TV. A very thick wallet will force you to sit so your spine is leaning to one side. Reduce its impact on your spine by keeping your wallet free of clutter, and place the billfold in your front pocket while you are working at a desk or driving.
Eat Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are both essential for dense and resilient bones. Consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients can help to prevent or postpone the onset of osteoporosis, a bone disease that affects nearly one in five women age 50 and older. Everyone’s dietary needs are unique, but you can decrease your risk of osteoporosis and resulting back pain by eating calcium-rich foods including dairy and leafy greens, as well as foods rich in vitamin D including fish, eggs and liver.
So many ways to help prevent back pain can seem daunting – but you have an ally in all of it. Whether you want to avoid debilitating back pain or treat it effectively, the chiropractors of Fargo Spine can help. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation. We’ve got your back!