9 smart ways to reduce back pain
With back pain, simple tasks can become impossible or, at least, aggravatingly painful. To ease, prevent, and relieve back pain, follow these nine smart tips
1. Balance your diet
Some foods can have anti-inflammatory effects and can help ward off back pain. Back-friendly foods include cherries, olive oil, salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, soy products, nuts, green tea, and ginger. On the other end of the diet spectrum, some foods can contribute to pain. So, avoid vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, or “mixed” vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable shortening, processed foods, products containing high-fructose corn syrup, foods high in saturated fat, and foods made with trans fats.
2. Let the sun shine
A lack of vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin, may contribute to back pain. In one study, more than 80 percent of people between 15 and 52 with chronic low-back pain were deficient in the vitamin-and when they started supplementing, their back pain improved. Some nutrition experts suggest taking 1,000 IU of D3 daily.
3. Carry less
Hanging a heavy weight off one side of your body stresses your skeleton as muscles try to compensate. Weigh your shoulder bag, backpack, or briefcase on the bathroom scale. If it’s more than 10 percent of your body weight, pare it down.
4. Edit your wallet
Sitting on a fat wallet all day tweaks the spine and can compress a crucial nerve in the buttocks. That can cause sciatica-inflammation of that nerve. This problem is so common among men that it actually has a name: wallet neuropathy.
5. Turn up the heat
When back pain strikes, try treating it with a wearable heat wrap rather than ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These pads provide 104-degree heat for up to eight hours. And one study published in Spine found they supply more relief than the maximum dose of nonprescription pain relievers and have longer-lasting effects.
6. Take a trip to the tailor
Your tailor may know some things about you that you might not. For example, while sizing you up for some pants, your tailor may find that one of your legs is shorter than the other. Any discrepancy greater than 2 centimeters might put a strain on your back. If the tailor detects a minor difference, try an insole insert in your shoe or consult a podiatrist.
7. Do a leg check
When sitting at your desk or on a long flight, put something under your feet so your knees are slightly higher than your hips. This move eases pressure on the lower back. Also, check your hamstrings. Tight hamstrings are a common cause of low back pain. Always stretch your hamstrings after exercise to avoid putting pressure on your back or pulling your body out of alignment.
8. Manage movements
Bend your knees, not your back, when you pick up heavy objects and keep the object close to your body. Make your legs do the work. Likewise, you are much more likely to slip and strain the muscles or ligaments in your back when you are pulling a heavy object than when you are pushing it. And don’t do too much. Combinations of physical movements – such as bending and twisting or lifting and turning – can put even greater pressure on your spine, particularly if you are lifting or carrying a heavy object.
9. Act like a cat and cow
One of the best moves for easing and preventing back pain comes from yoga – the Cat Cow. Rest on your hands and knees, keeping your back flat. Exhale as you curl your back upward and lower your head until you’re looking at your abdomen. Hold for a moment. Then, inhale as you lower your back slowly until it is arced as far as comfortable, raising your head so you’re looking up toward the ceiling. Repeat.