Back pain is a part of life for many people. The American Chiropractic Association says 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time, and experts estimate that up to 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. WebMD says back pain is the second most common reason people visit the doctor.
Back pain can take on various forms, ranging from a dull ache to a sharp pain. Some may experience intermittent back pain, while others may have chronic back pain. The causes can be considerable, from injury to underlying medical conditions. Alleviating back pain — or preventing it in the first place — involves understanding the common causes and taking appropriate actions.
• Try exercise. Routine exercise is not guaranteed to eliminate back pain, but it can make it less frequent, advises doctors at Harvard Medical School. Low back pain due to muscle strain or muscle spasm can be tamed by exercise. Yoga, or a similar stretch-based exercise, can be very effective at alleviating back pain. Yoga relaxes muscle tension and expands range of motion in the joints. It also can build muscle strength.
• Maintain proper posture. Slouching over computers or looking down at phones while texting may be doing damage to the back. Work ergonomically and take breaks to stretch. Sit up straight in chairs and try to keep a straight back while walking as well.
• Shed some pounds. Extra pounds at the midsection can shift the center of gravity and put strain on the lower back, advises WebMD. Try to stay within a range of 5-10 pounds of your ideal weight.
• Don’t smoke. The Arthritis Foundation says research shows a high prevalence of spinal stenosis and back pain among smokers. It is believed that smoking can damage blood vessels that supply blood to the back. Smoking is also bad for the bones and is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
• Try a different sleeping position. Talk with a doctor about the best position for sleeping to ease up back pain. It may include being on your side with knees pulled up, or placing a pillow under your knees if you’re a back-sleeper.
• Lift cautiously. Always bend at the knees and use the legs to lift items. This can help you avoid straining your back.
Back pain can be overwhelming, but with some strategies a person can reduce his or her propensity for pain.