Keeping Your Back Healthy

by Wellness Editor – MH

Along with wrinkles and graying hair, back pain is often considered one of the sobering signs of getting older. You’ve probably heard at least one person complain about his or her persistent back problems, and at times it may seem if back pain is all but inevitable for most people. There is a good amount of truth to such sentiment; it is estimated that anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of adults will deal with at least moderate back pain at some point in their lives. Given that so many of us deal with chronic back problems, it makes perfect sense to study the root causes of back pain, and to read up on how to prevent it.

The Reasons for Back Pain

While some medical conditions are caused by external factors, back pain is often a self-inflicted problem. Curiously enough, the back can be damaged either through excessively taxing physical activity, or though a thoroughly sedentary lifestyle. The proceeding list explains why back pain manages to entrap millions of adults.

#1: People Push Themselves Too Hard on the Weekends

According to some doctors, this scenario unfolds fairly often; someone who is out of shape (or at least unaccustomed to demanding physical exercise) will attempt to channel their inner sports superstar while playing a game of pick-up hoops or weekend baseball. This, of course, frequently doesn’t end well, as the back’s seldom-used muscles are suddenly asked to handle a heavy workload, leading to muscle sprains and other injuries.

#2: Poor Lifting Technique

See if this sounds familiar – you bend over to pick up something heavy, and on the way back up you feel a sharp pain in your back. Yep, improper lifting techniques are responsible for a countless number of back injuries. The next time you have to lift up a heavy object, bend your knees so that you’re squatting next to the object. Try to keep your back straight, and remember to hold the object close to you as you lift it upwards.

#3: Insufficient Physical Activity

For legions of cubicle dwellers, a typical workday goes something like this; a prolonged commute to the office while sitting in a car, followed by sitting in front of computer monitor for the better part of eight hours, followed by more sitting for the commute home and tapped off by sitting, slouching or lying down on the living room couch.

Though it might be a bit surprising, all of that sitting isn’t good for your back. In between the individual vertebrae that make up your spine are discs, rubbery pads that prevent the vertebrae from grinding against each other. The blood circulation inside these disks is very poor, a design flaw that can only be circumvented by getting up and walking around.

Compounding this “sitting” problem is the tendency for many people to lean forward while they sit. This poor posture effectively puts more pressure on the vertebrae, which in turns places more pressure on the spine’s disks, placing them at greater risk of rupturing.

#4: It’s in the Genes – Sometimes, people are just dealt a bad hand of playing cards. With regards to back pain, some people are born with an unusually high number of pain-sensing nociceptive fibers in their back. Consequentially, these people often experience debilitating pain after lifting even relatively small items. Other unlucky people suffer from degenerative disk disease, a condition that causes to disks between vertebrae to deteriorate over time.

Preserving Your Back

Back pain isn’t unavoidable; in fact, by following some easy-to-implement guidelines, you can help save your back from years of pain and anguish.

Stop the Slouching – Remember when your parents chastised you for your poor posture? They were doing you a favor; frequent slouching over a prolonged time frame can have devastating consequences for the spine, leading to painful muscle strains and even spinal curvature. To maintain proper posture, keep your head straight, stomach in and your shoulders and hips aligned.

Sit Up Straight – Here’s yet another piece of parental advice that is essential for a healthy back. While sitting, your back and buttocks should be firmly pressed against your chair. Keep your shoulders back and your knees slightly higher than your hips. Make sure to properly adjust the height of your chair and its distance from your desk.; this will allow you to work without slouching or reaching.

Be Care When Lifting Heavy Objects – We’ve already discussed how to properly lift a heavy object off the ground. However, it’s important to know your limits. There will be some items that will simply be too heavy for you to lift without risking injury.

Exercise Your Back – When hitting the weight room, some people overlook their back in favor of their chest, bicep or tricep muscles. While there are certain weight machines that focus on the back muscles – including lat pulldown and back extension machines – you can also strengthen your back by walking, swimming or practicing yoga.

Give Up Your Smokes – What’s this? Quitting smoking actually helps your back muscles? Strange as it may sound, it’s completely true. Nicotine, the substance that makes cigarettes so addicting, also decreases the blood flow to your spinal cords disks. This lack of blood robs disks of vital nutrients, causing them to prematurely corrode.

Boost Your Bones Through Diet – A seemingly healthy back can be undermined by weak bones, which are prone to painful fractures. Consuming appropriate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous can act as an insurance policy against such injuries.

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