Self-Help Tips For Dealing With Back Pain

Back pain can develop from the strain caused when you bend, twist, and stretch muscles that are weak. You may not realize it, but back pain is a problem people often bring on themselves when they don't think about their movements and fail to avoid awkward and extreme postures. Lifestyle choices, such as eating a poor diet, smoking, and being sedentary, can also contribute to back pain.

However, protecting your back is essential to your overall health, as back pain can limit your activities and quality of life. Yet back pain, particularly low back pain, is a common ailment among adults. According to a 2009 Work Foundation report, 1 in 8 Canadians suffer chronic back problems.

If bad habits cause strain on your back muscles, which in turn affects your daily function, practicing these 10 self-help tips can help:

  1. Think about how you move, especially if you've suffered previous back problems. You reduce the risk of hurting yourself if you don't allow your movements to catch you off guard. 

  2. Pay attention to your posture. Whether you stand or sit, maintaining proper posture keeps your spine aligned and minimizes stress on your back. Slouching your shoulders forward when you sit or stand strains back muscles and puts more pressure on your spine than when you sit or stand straight. Elevate your feet on a footstool when you sit to relieve pressure on your back.

  3. Give your back a break when it starts to feel stiff from sitting. If your job requires that you sit for long periods of time, stand up and stretch after each hour. Stand with hands on your hips and your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean back slowly until you feel slight tension in your back. Hold the position for a few seconds. Getting up and walking around your desk every 30 minutes helps too.

  4. Plan your lifts, bending at the knees, not from your waist. The large muscles of your legs are stronger; therefore, they can support heavy weights better than your back muscles can. Avoid rounding your back when you lift, keeping your back straight and erect. As you lift, hold the object as close to your body as you can. That way, your back muscles won't have to do as much work.

  5. Exercise to ease back pain and prevent future problems. Along with chiropractic treatment to relieve back pain, low-impact aerobic exercises like walking and swimming help tighten and tone your back and stomach muscles. While you don't want to over exert yourself, moving keeps your back strong. Yoga and Pilates exercises stretch and strengthen back and abdominal muscles that support the back. But no matter what types of exercise you choose, you are less likely to have back pain when your body is in good physical condition.

  6. Take time out of your busy schedule to rest. Lying flat on your back with two pillows under your knees helps relieve strain on tired back muscles.

  7. Sleep on a firm mattress. If you suffer lower back pain and need more support when you sleep, place a board between the mattress and box spring. A soft mattress can throw your spine out of alignment.

  8. Lose any added pounds you've put on. Belly fat, or extra weight around the waist stresses the spine and puts more strain on back muscles. 

  9. Take an over-the-counter analgesic, such as acetaminophen, which is designed to combat pain. If pain persists or becomes severe, contact your doctor. Depending on the cause of back pain, your physician may recommend chiropractic treatment for back pain (from centers like Battlefield Chiropractic & Physiotherapy). Your chiropractor will develop an exercise program that targets strengthening the muscles around your spine.

  10. Try this simple exercise for quick tension relief. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, counting backward from 100. Anxiety causes muscle tension, and tense muscles can lead to back pain.