At some point in our lives, most of us struggle with lower back pain. The good news is it’s never too late to make positive changes in your lifestyle. Preventive steps now can help keep your back healthier down the road.These three things may make the difference between future suffering and living pain free:
1. Get active. Staying active may be the single most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy back. When you don’t get enough exercise, the muscle tone in your lower back can weaken, which may cause the pelvis to tilt too far forward, causing back pain. Regular exercise helps prevent back pain by strengthening your back and abdominal muscles. Just 30 minutes a day of a low-impact exercise like swimming, walking, or stationary cycling can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga is also great for stretching and strengthening muscles and improving posture. If you’re already experiencing back pain, you may want to meet with an Emory physiatrist or physical therapist, who can customize an exercise plan for you.
2. Lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, chances are you already experience back pain. One of the best things you can do now to ease pain and prevent future back pain is to lose weight. Being overweight or obese affects not only the cardiovascular and endocrine systems but the skeletal system. The skeletal system is made to support a healthy weight. Obesity puts an extra strain on all your weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, but also on the spinal column. The resulting poor posture can cause chronic back pain.
3. Stop smoking. If you’re a smoker, you already know it’s not healthy. But you may not have realized it can contribute to back problems, not just later in life, but now. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes, including nicotine, have been shown to be toxic to spinal disc cells in laboratory experiments. Also, the carbon monoxide in cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Because spinal discs have no capillaries, they rely on osmosis for oxygen delivery. Without oxygen-rich blood, the discs don’t get the nutrients they need, making them brittle and at risk for rupture.
Do you suffer from back pain? If so, what treatments have worked best for you? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.