Monday, June 7, 2021

How to take care of your back pain.


Here are some tips to take care of your back pain

Everyone experiences back pain at some point in their lives. The key is to try to strengthen and support your back to prevent chronic pain, which is a pretty debilitating injury to have to live with. To get a head start, here are 20 tips to care for your back, whether you already have pain or not.


Everyone appreciates an excuse to get a massage, and—good news!—back massages are not only therapeutic for most types of acute and chronic back pain, but they’re also great as a preventative care measure. Massages have been shown to increase circulation to your muscles, ease tension, and increase endorphins that block pain and help relieve stress.

Tighten your corset

…And by corset we mean your transverse abdominals, of course. These are a set of deep muscles in your abdomen that act as a corset between your lower ribs and pelvis. They are hard to find, often ignored, and key to protecting your back. These muscles are interesting, as they anticipate movement, protecting your back before you even move. If your brain forgets how to communicate with them (as mine did!), you experience low back pain. One way to engage this area is to imagine an elevator from your pelvis to your belly button—the “third floor”; on an exhale, tighten up from ground to third floor, and repeat.

Foam rolling—it hurts so good!

If you’ve ever been to a physio, chances are they’ve suggested using a foam roller, particularly if you have hip or back pain. Too much pain isn’t a good thing, but anyone who’s used a roller will tell you that it certainly doesn’t tickle. This is because the roller is relaxing and lengthening your muscles using myofascial release. This improves flexibility, hydration and blood flow to your muscles, amongst so many other things.

Level up your mattress game

Your mattress is an important ingredient to supporting your back long term, and as such, there’s been quite a bit of research done to figure out the perfect fit. Recent research suggests that, contrary to popular belief, extremely hard mattresses are not the way to go, but neither is soft! Firm or medium-firm seems to be OK, but it’s really about testing different mattress types for your body.

Get out of that chair!

While the guidelines for how often you should get out of your chair vary, there is general consensus that sitting for any more than an hour at a time has a negative effect on your back—and overall health. A solid recommendation is to set a reminder to go off every 30 to 50 minutes (perhaps you can work up to 30), that tells you to get up and move or at least change your position.

Prep your core for exercise

While we like to think that exercising will magically save us from back pain, unfortunately with the amount of sedentary work that we do, our backs just aren’t prepared for the load placed on them when we hit the gym. What you want to do is ensure that your back is supported on all sides before you lift. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, suggests four exercises to incorporate into your pre-gym routine: (1) cat-camel (a.k.a. cat-cow), (2) bird dog (reminder: focus on keeping your hips level—this isn’t a dog-hydrant exercise!), (3) side plank, and (4) his signature curl-ups.

Stretch daily

Working a stretch routine into your daily schedule can do wonders for your back health. Whether you’re looking to improve your ability to move or to release tension in your back, it’s easy to incorporate stretches into your day. For instance, next time you’re watching TV, lie down on the ground and simply draw your knees to your chest, flex your feet, and hold. If you want to incorporate a twist, bend your legs at a 90-degree angle and allow them to fall to one side, and then the other. And done!

Keep active

According to Chris Iliades, MD, “Exercise is one of the best ways to get rid of back pain and keep it from returning.” While not all activities are created equal, general daily activity (e.g., gardening and chores) and low-impact exercise, such as biking and walking, are great options to support and strengthen your back health.


Posture, posture, posture! Speaking from experience, a postural back injury is no fun. It will limit your ability—at any age—to exercise, move, and take care of everyday chores and activities. Once you’ve got the injury, it’s a long and frustrating road to recovery, so try to take measures every day to sit up and support your spine.

Aquatic therapy

Exercising in water does wonders for the back. Not only does water provide natural resistance to your movements, but it also allows your body to move more freely, and takes away any stress on the spine. You’ll often hear swimming or aquacise suggested for those recovering from an injury, but it’s also a great preventative exercise to strengthen your back muscles in a low-impact environment.

Hot or cold?

For acute back pain, hot and/or cold therapy can help ease your pain. While some will suggest using cold for the first couple of days after the pain starts, and then switching to heat, others recommend trying out both to see which works best for your body—makes sense! Just remember to limit each application to 20 minutes, and avoid placing ice cold items directly onto your skin.

Time for sleep

Often overlooked as a back care tool, getting enough sleep and supporting your body while sleeping are important for preventative care and pain management. The tough thing about this one is that back pain is also a common cause of insomnia, so it’s a bit of a tough cycle to beat. If you are experiencing back pain, check out some recommended sleep postures to help you get the rest that you need.

Pay attention to your hammys!

Tight hamstrings are an often overlooked, yet common contributor to back pain, so get your stretch on! There are lots of stretch options for this muscle group, which can be modified depending on your range of motion.

Walk it out

Such a simple solution that it deserves its own slide—walking has been shown to decrease low back pain by up to 50 percent simply because it distracts your brain while releasing happy vibes into your body. Brilliant! If installing a walking workstation is out of the question, you can always incorporate more walking into your daily life by getting off transit one stop earlier than usual or taking your work calls on a little walk around the office.

Backpack basics

While our backs are definitely rejoicing—and feeling more balanced—with the backpack revival in adult fashion, there are still some things we need to learn about toting around our items. Many people wear their backpacks too far from their body, and load their bags with heavy items that place pressure on their muscles and spine. Try out these tips from the experts: opt for a smaller bag (so you can’t fit so much in there!), make sure your bag hugs your back, and place heavier items closer to your body.

Choose your sole mates wisely

Your feet are what grounds you to the earth; they’re also the foundation of your posture. When your shoes are poorly chosen for your body and your arches aren’t feeling supported, you’ll feel the consequences right on up your spine. Every foot is different though, so talk to someone in the know about what kind of soles suit your feet for the activities you love, and whether or not you should consider specialized footwear.

Try out Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been found to be a useful addition to the exercise repertoire for back pain relief. It’s low impact, and focuses on posture, breathing and deliberate, slow movement. Activities such as Tai Chi tend to make you more aware of your body as well, allowing you to have a better sense of what is working and not working for your back health.

Adjust your workstation

By now you’ve probably heard about the benefits of ergonomics, which is a field of study dedicated to exploring how best to adjust space to make it work for your body. Thing is, most of us sit for at least eight hours a day in positions which are causing long-term damage to our neck, low back, cardiovascular system, and so much more. While everybody is different, ergonomic studies include a few standard suggestions for your workstation, including having your monitor an arm’s length away from your body, and ensuring that your feet are securely planted with about two inches between the back of your knees and your seat


This seems to be the answer for everything, doesn’t it? Research shows that anxiety, stress and depression all have negative impacts on back health, for a variety of reasons, and unfortunately it’s often a chicken-and-egg situation. Sometimes just taking a few deep breaths and focusing on sending your breath to your back will help, while other times you may want to look into more active forms of relaxation or talk therapy.

Drink up!

Much as it is to every other aspect of your health, hydration is important to your spine. When you’re dehydrated, the discs in your spine lose their lubrication, making it harder to deal with impact, amongst other things. So there you have it, one more reason to consume an equivalent of eight glasses of water per day!

Melanie Ewan, Espresso


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