In my experience, few common injuries are more debilitating than those affecting our back. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how much you rely on something until it’s no longer supporting you, and then even the most ordinary of actions become deliberate, uncomfortable choices.
What makes back pain even more frustrating is that it can be caused by even the simplest of actions, such as picking something up incorrectly or sitting incorrectly for an extended period of time.
Since we all need to do these behaviours regularly, avoiding potential back pain triggers seems nearly impossible, and the below back pain statistics — courtesy of the American Chiropractic Association —would seem to support that notion:
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
Rather than admitting defeat and resigning yourself to living in discomfort, I’d like to present a list of 4 simple things that can both help you to overcome back pain when it strikes, and hopefully avoid it altogether in the future.
1. Stretch It Out
To many of us, stretching is something that we associate (and thus only partner) with other forms of physical activity. We’ll stretch before and/or after working out or playing a sport, but will rarely stretch for any other reason.
While there are multiple schools of thought (view 1 | view 2) as to whether stretching before these activities is beneficial or not, stretching in general is undoubtedly good for us. The issue is that most of us approach stretching with the same mentality that has made the pharmaceutical industry into the juggernaut that it is: we choose to be reactive rather than proactive.
Instead of waiting for back pain to kick in before you stretch it out, why not make stretching a part of your normal routine? There are number of helpful and quick stretches that you can easily incorporate into your daily life, including this video, which outlines a 1 minute daily stretch regimen specifically focused on preventing sciatica issues.
2. Put Down The Cell Phone
With the recent (and to me ridiculous) global embrace of Pokémon Go, this may seem even more impossible than it already was, but it’s time for us all to put down our cell phones. I’m not suggesting that we completely discard them, but rather that we stop letting them be the focus of our lives.
They are truly powerful, valuable, and fun tools, but not enough to warrant the average 46 times, according to Time Magazine, that Americans check in on them each day. Even putting all of the EMF related concerns aside, our cell phones are doing a number on our bodies by promoting poor posture.
Even the slightest of tilts drastically impacts the amount of weight and pressure we put on our neck, spine, and backs — as elaborated on in this article. Considering how much we use them for, it’s no wonder that back related issues continue to be a major health complaint worldwide.
Continue to use your cell phone as necessary, but be conscious of your usage. Make an effort to minimize it when possible and find a way to break the habit of checking it unnecessarily.
3. Invest In What You Sit In
As much as we would love it to be otherwise, the majority of us work jobs that require us to spend a large portion of our day seated in a chair. This may seem harmless enough, but as a recent Ted-Ed video illustrated, this may be affecting us more than we think.
The best way to combat this damage is to invest in a good chair. One particular chair that I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand is the CoreChair, an ergonomically designed seat that is scientifically proven to improve the way you sit.
The CoreChair provides the support your back needs while also encouraging healthy movement, thanks to its mobile seat, all of which help prevent back pain and discomfort.
Investing in a chair like this may, in the short term, seem like an extravagance that few can afford, but the investment made on your well-being now will pay for itself (and then some) in the years to come.
4. Walk With Your Head Held High
A final adjustment we can all make is in the way that we walk. Most of us, and understandably so, do the majority of our walking unconsciously, since it is something we can do without much focus or effort.
The only challenge with this is that far too many of us walk in ways that further promote back, neck, and shoulder issues (among others). A general rule of thumb that I’ve learned is to always pay attention to the angle of the chin when walking. The more parallel the angle of your chin is to the floor, the more likely it is you are walking with good posture.
Keep these tips in mind, and you may just surprise yourself by how much better you feel.