The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

November 16, 2012

Speaking of Health: Back Pain: Is it inevitable?

— When back pain strikes, many people complain that they’re just getting old – and they’re not completely wrong. Most back problems are associated with degeneration of the spine, which comes with the natural process of aging. But rest assured, back pain can be avoided.

By taking proactive measures, you can properly treat and prevent back pain – or at least lessen its frequency and severity – while improving the overall health of your spine.

1. Maintain a healthy weight. Your spine bears the majority of your body’s weight. If you are overweight, the additional strain on your spine and its supporting muscles causes your spine to wear out more quickly. As a result, obese individuals are much more likely to experience back pain and at an earlier age.

2. Low-impact exercise. Regular low-impact exercise, such as walking, bicycling, yoga, Pilates and swimming, strengthens your back and increases flexibility. High-impact exercise that involves repetitive starting and stopping can strain and jolt your back, resulting in more wear and tear on your spine. 

3. Stand smart. Sit smart. Lift smart. Using proper body mechanics promotes a healthy spine. Practical, easy tips to improve posture and reduce the amount of stress on the back muscles include:

  • If you have to stand for long periods of time, place your feet on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back.
  • When sitting, consider placing a pillow behind your lower back to support its normal curve. Also, keep your hips and knees level.
  • Let your legs do the work when lifting heavy objects. Try to keep your back straight and bend at the knees.   

4. You can treat back pain at home – sometimes. Most back pain doesn’t require a visit to a health care provider and will improve with treatment at home. Restricting activities to avoid over-exertion will help your spine heal, while over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen supply pain relief. Muscle spasms may trigger back pain, so relaxing those muscles through heat or massage can decrease the pain as well.  

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Health & Fitness