Since your back is central to so much of how your body moves through the world, any irritation or injury can mean a real hit to your quality of life. Have you ever felt sore muscles in your back? According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
Does your low back feel tight and sore? This is very common. Many people these days have nagging tightness in their low back. This tends to get worse when they exercise or even just stand a lot. The soreness can get so bad it prevents people from running, playing with their kids, or even walking their dog.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the US, and the number one prediction of back pain is previous back pain. Chronic back pain usually doesn’t just clear up on its own. The pain repeats for 85% of patients. Pain in your body is like a check engine light in your car. It is a sign that something needs to change. To ignore it just leads to bigger and bigger problems.
The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain.
While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements — for example, picking up a pencil from the floor— can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain.
Back pain causes
The most common causes of lower back pain are strain and problems with back structures.
Strain Strained muscles often cause back pain. Strain commonly occurs with incorrect lifting of heavy objects and sudden awkward movements. Strain can also result from overactivity. An example is the sore feeling and stiffness that occurs after a few hours of yard work or playing a sport.
Structural problems Vertebrae are the interlocking bones stacked on top of one another that make up the spine. Discs are areas of tissue that cushion the spaces between each vertebra. Disc injuries are a fairly common cause of back pain. Sometimes these discs can bulge, herniate, or rupture. Nerves can get compressed when this happens.
Arthritis Spinal osteoarthritis is also a potential cause of back pain. It’s caused by damage and deterioration in the cartilage of joints in your lower back.
Osteoporosis Loss of bone density and thinning of the bone, called osteoporosis, can lead to small fractures in your vertebrae. These fractures can cause serious pain and are referred to as compression fractures.
How to prevent back pain
Approaches like pain medication just hide the pain. They don’t get rid of the actual cause which often, at the most foundational level, is related to poor posture, tight muscles, and weak muscles. If you don’t take action to reverse the fundamental problems, the problems keep coming back.
A lot of low back tightness comes from having weak abdominal muscles on the front of the body. These muscles connect the body together, support upright posture, and stabilize the body for movement. Hunched over posture keeps muscles from working effectively. Because the abdominal muscles are too weak to do their jobs properly, the back muscles take on the work that the deep abdominals muscles should be doing. The back muscles were not designed to do this work. If they do it for a long time or during extreme conditions like intense exercise, the back muscles get overworked, tired, and sore.
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What can you do to help reduce back pain?
Improve your posture. Practice standing up straight against a wall. Pull your chin back so that the back of your head is against the wall.
Make sure all your ribs are against the wall and the edges of your shoulders are against the wall. The tricky part is getting all parts of your back flat against the wall. Find the position and hold it. Start with holding the position for 10 seconds and build up to a minute. This will strengthen the muscles so that you can hold the proper alignment of your body for longer and longer periods of time. Try to hold the posture as you move away from the wall and go about your day. Preform this exercise twice a day to change your habits and improve your posture.
Whether you are working from your home office or the living rom couch, maintaining healthy posture can help you prevent back pain.
Strengthen your weak muscles. You need to do exercises that strengthen the deep muscles of your core. These muscles are different from your six-pack muscles. Traditional ab exercises like crunches will not help this problem. In fact, they tend to make the back muscles even more sore. You need to do exercises that active the muscles deep in the core, primarily the transverse abdominis muscles.
One exercise that does that is leg slides. This is variation of a dead bug exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Put your feet on something that can slide like paper plates on carpet or towels on hardwood floors. Make sure all your ribs are on the floor and chin is tucked. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, slide one leg up one foot out and straighten the knee. Return the foot to the starting position. Inhale, exhale, and slide the other foot out. As you do these slides, place one hand on your belly under your belly button. You should not feel the muscles tightening under your hand, your belly popping up, or your back arching. Start with 4 alternating slides and work up to 20.
Stretch the tight low back muscles To loosen the tight back muscles, start on the floor in a crawling position.
Bring both hands across the body to just above one knee. Push your hands into the floor and sit your hips back toward your heels. Push your ribs and hips to the side opposite your hands. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then switch to the other side. Repeat the stretch three times on each side.
A wide variety of exercises can help reduce back pain. The ones listed here can get you started. You can do these exercises everyday. If you do them consistently, your posture will improve, your core will get stronger, and your tight back muscles will start to loosen up. Your back pain will get better and actually stay better.
Give them a try and let us know if you more guidance.
Nutrition Following an anti-inflammatory diet isn’t just about eliminating foods that cause inflammation. We also need to eat enough of the kinds of foods that will reduce the triggers for inflammation.
Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. “If pain reduction is the primary goal, eating 4 to 6 cups of colorful vegetables and fruits without any added sugars will essentially guarantee a supply of anti-inflammatory nutrients, along with many other benefits.
Consuming more omega-3s. Increasing omega-3 fatty acids intake would include cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and cod. Plant-based options can include hemp, flax, or chia seeds.
Prepare foods with anti-inflammatory spices. Spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne can be used to decrease inflammation, as well. Turmeric is another good example of this; you can use it in savory foods or add it to a smoothie
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There are several factors that affect back pain. The ones listed above are some of the most common. Be sure to check with your doctor if you have significant pain. Ask your doctor if these exercises would be helpful for you.
Back pain is a common ailment, and the older you get, the more likely you are to experience it. In fact, the majority of Americans will cope with back pain at some point in their lives. For a small percentage, back pain may become chronic.
The good news for people who’ve experienced back pain and want to avoid another bout with it is that you can take steps to prevent back pain. Daily stretches, yoga, and strength training and supplementation can help make your back and core muscles stronger and more resilient.
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About the authors:
Cynthia Croissant had always been active and healthy growing up. But as she got older, staying in shape got a lot more difficult. After getting diagnosed with osteopenia, she began strength training. She started getting frustrated with the traditional way to lift weights because she kept getting injured. She was determined to figure out a way to get stronger and healthier. So, she got certified by NASM, StrongFirst, Ground Force Methods, and others. Using information from those certifications, she created a program to get herself out of pain and get back to doing the lifting she wants to do and reversed the osteopenia.
Now, she is passionate about sharing her simple system for resetting your body and helping other people get stronger, move better, and improve their wellness.
Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.