Back pain basics: 8 things everyone should know about back pain
In the United States, it’s estimated that 85-90% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. The costs associated with lower back pain alone in the United States exceed $100 billion per year, including costs for lost wages and reduced productivity. Back pain is common, expensive, and it holds us back from living a full life — but the more we know about back pain, the more we can manage it.
Read on to learn more about back pain, and how you can better prevent it and cope with it.
1) To prevent back pain, start with the core.
Your core is made up of many muscles, but primarily your front abdominal muscles, your obliques, the transverse abdominis which wraps around the front, and the muscles in your back between and along your spine bones. Strengthening these muscles is said to lighten the load on the ligaments and other structures that connect bone to bone, thus reducing pain. Two simple exercises you can start with are plank and side plank.
2) Good posture is a good check.
Poor posture can lead to back pain. To check yours, stand with your heels against a wall—your calves, rear, shoulders, and the back of your head should all be touching the wall, and you should be able to put a hand behind the small of your back. This is good posture. If that posture changes when you step away from the wall, correct it.
There are posture corrections that can be made for sitting, standing for long periods of time, and for lifting. Make sure you’ve covered your bases.
3) Bed rest isn’t best. Start with care.
If your back hurts and you’re considering bed rest, reconsider. This is no longer considered best practice, and may even be harmful. There are many physical therapy and chiropractic treatments for back pain. Recent research has shown that starting care with a chiropractor for lower back pain can reduce pain quicker and at a lower cost than starting with your primary care physician. If patients visit a chiropractor first, it’s also been shown they can reduce lower back pain without the prescription of narcotics. In fact, initial visits to chiropractors or physical therapists are associated with substantially decreased early and long-term use of opioids. If you’re not sure what the right step is for you, connect with the Orthology team.
4) Simple stretches can help alleviate some of the pain.
If you have an active day ahead, and you’re worried about aggravating your back, start with some stretches. Basic yoga and stretches can help warm up your muscles before raking, shoveling, moving things, or just playing with the kids.
5) Back pain can sometimes be weather related.
Have you ever had an older relative tell you they can sense when the rain is coming by the pain in their joints? There might be something to it. In one study out of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Mie University Faculty of Medicine in Japan, patients “experienced more severe low back pain when atmospheric pressure was decreased.” If rain is on the calendar, it might be time for those stretches.
6) Smoking may contribute to back pain.
Smoking is widely known for its detrimental effects on health, but less well known is its effect on back pain. Studies have found, though, that there may be a “biological gradient associated with exposure to smoking cigarettes and back pain in adult Americans.” In lay terms, it appears that back pain increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.
7) Weight has an effect on back pain.
While people of all sizes can experience back pain, extra weight can aggravate the problem. Your spine helps carry you upright, and adding strain to your spine through weight can cause pain. Obesity has been linked to several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain.
8) Surgery should be the last answer.
It’s tempting to want a quick fix, but surgery is rarely that. All nonsurgical and otherwise “conservative” options should be considered before going into surgery. Often the right kind of movement, with the right kind of care, can help correct the movements that hurt.
If your back pain is affecting your life, speak to the Orthology Team. We know that back pain isn’t just “one of those things.” We’re here to help you get back to being you.