As I reflect on the topics I wrote about last year, most are comprised of information on what to do about back pain that has become chronic, i.e. pain that has been around for a while and now warrants more serious attention. In closing the chapter on last year, I’d like to switch it up a bit and discuss some tips for what you can do in the coming year to B.A.N.I.S.H back pain from your life, for good (hopefully)!
Bend and Stretch - I can’t say it enough; treating your spine with the care it deserves is important and will pay off down the road. This year, commit each morning to doing a few simple bending and stretching exercises to help prepare your back for the day ahead.
Ask For Help – If an object you’re trying to reach is too heavy, too high up or too cumbersome to move, don’t do it alone! Ask for help either from another able-bodied person or with tools designed for such tasks. When it comes to preventing spinal injuries, step stools, ladders, dolly carts and other lift-assistive devices are absolutely your friends. Use them!
Never Slouch – I’m sure it’s something your parents drilled into your head as a child: “Stand up Straight!” Turns out they were right (as I’m sure you’ve come to realize about many things). Proper posture and body alignment are keys to keeping your spine in line. Whether standing or seated, make 2014 the year you focus on slouching less. You’ll look taller, leaner and your back will benefit. A win-win-win!
Ice It – I’m often asked which is better for back pain, ice or heat? While each can have its place in pain relief, ice is often preferred because it can help reduce inflammation long-term. So, if you’re suffering from back pain, do a 20-minute on-off cycle of icing it for a few hours. The cold may be uncomfortable temporarily, but the benefit will most likely outweigh it longer-term.
Shed Excess Pounds – Since this is typically the time of New Year’s Resolutions, I would be remiss not to offer a gentle reminder about excess body weight and the strain it puts on your spine and joints. Our bodies just weren’t designed to carry around more weight than they can handle. Some studies have shown that for each pound of excess body weight lost, a ten-fold reduction in stress on the spine and other joints can be achieved. If you’ve got some weight to lose, you may also start seeing some positive benefits for your back in a very short amount of time.
Heed Advice – If you’ve been battling back pain for a while and it’s affecting your daily living, it’s probably time to see a specialist about it. When you do, make sure you listen carefully to their advice and then follow it. If the advice you receive doesn’t “feel” right or seems inappropriate (like a recommendation of invasive spinal surgery as a first step in treatment), then be sure to seek out a second opinion.
As Benjamin Franklin once said - “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With a little effort, you can absolutely make this coming year the one where you focus less on treating your back pain and more on preventing it from happening in the first place.
I wish you and your family a very Happy and Healthy New Year!