5 Ways to Relieve and Prevent Back Pain

5 Ways to Relieve and Prevent Back Pain

When “snap,” “crackle,” and “pop” are sounds you associate more with getting out of bed in the morning than with your breakfast cereal, it’s time to do something about your lower back pain.

First of all, know you’re not alone. Back pain is common, particularly the older you get. Some might even say that one of the milestones of age is when you realize your back goes out more than you do. The simple fact is that 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. It’s the most common cause of job-related disability and a major contributor to lack of sleep, inactivity, and missed days at work.

And while almost everyone will experience back pain, the quality and intensity of the pain can vary greatly from one person to another. Some suffer a constant, dull ache, while others feel sharp, intense pain. In most cases, lower back pain lasts for only a few days and often resolves without any form of treatment. Pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks, however, is considered chronic pain. Approximately 20 percent of people with back pain have chronic pain, with symptoms that last for up to one year. Sometimes this pain persists even after surgery or other advanced forms of treatment.

What Causes Back Pain?

There are multiple causes of back pain, but here are a few of the common culprits:

Strains and Sprains

Besides being a great name for a new crime drama on the USA Network about two over-the-hill, yet feisty private detectives, strains and sprains are among the most common causes of lower back pain. Strain happens when muscle fibers are damaged as a result of overstretching. Lifting heavy objects, sudden shifts in movement, lifting while twisting, and falling can all cause muscle strain. Sports and activities that involve twisting, such as golf, can also lead to muscle strains, as well as participation in sports that include sudden jarring motions.

Lumbar sprains, on the other hand, can happen when ligaments are torn. Ligaments are tough fibers that connect bones together. Just like strain, a sprain can happen as a result of a fall or a sudden twisting motion.

Disc Injury

A herniated disc is another common cause of lower back pain. A herniated disc, often referred to as a slipped, ruptured, or bulging disc, happens when the inner, softer part of the disc (the cartilage between two vertebrae, or sections of backbone) bulges out through a weak portion of the outer disc. When the disc bulges, it can press on the nerve root, leading to lower back pain. The severity of the symptoms greatly depends on the size of the bulge — the bigger the bulge, the more severe the symptoms.

It’s still not clear why some people get a slipped disc and others don’t, even when they lift the same objects or perform the same tasks. It appears that some people simply have a weakness in the outer portion of their disc. However, factors like heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, smoking, being overweight, and advancing age all increase the risk of rupture.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal column, typically due to the degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae. The narrowing of the spine compresses the nerve root, which causes the lower back pain. Several factors lead to the development of spinal stenosis, including aging, arthritis, growth of tumors in the spine, and injuries that lead to dislocation of the spine and spinal canal.

Other Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions, including abnormal spine curvatures like scoliosis (lateral curvature of the spine), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), fibromyalgia (a disorder characterized by chronic musculoskeletal pain), spondylitis (a form of arthritis that affects the spine), and spondylosis (a degenerative disorder leading to pain and loss of normal spine function) can contribute to lower back pain.

Of course, if you have lower back pain, what you really want to know is how to stop it and prevent it from reoccurring.

Ways to Relieve and Prevent Back Pain

Do regular stretching. Stretching before working out increases your flexibility and helps to prevent injury, while stretching after strengthening exercises helps to reduce muscle soreness. You should do warm-up stretches for about five to 10 minutes before you start your workout. Avoid jerky movements and stop when the stretch starts to hurt. You should only feel mild tension when you’re stretching. If you have a history of back injury or problems in the spine, you should consult your doctor before jumping into any stretching program or routine. 

RELATED: 3 Exercises to Help Relieve Back Pain

Fix your posture. Standing, sitting, or lifting heavy weights with poor body posture doesn’t just make you more prone to injury, it also increases your chance of experiencing back pain. Good posture doesn’t mean stiffening your back, but rather having a relaxed appearance with a neutral spine. Having a neutral spine means retaining your body’s natural curves, including the inward curve of the neck, the outward curve of the middle back, and the inward curve of the lower back. When you have good posture, your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles will be aligned in a straight line.

Try yoga. Several studies show that weekly yoga practice helps to ease chronic back pain or prevent it from occurring in the first place. Yoga’s focus on correct physical posture, proper breathing techniques, and meditation make it an effective weapon in the fight to ease and even prevent back pain.

Take it easy when lifting weights. It‘s true that lifting weights will build and strengthen your muscles, but attempting to lift too much weight can cause back injuries, including herniated discs. When engaging in a weight-lifting regimen, master the proper form for each lift before increasing the weight. Certain exercises, like squats, can help you work on your form.

Stay active. When your muscles are sore, it’s important to rest, but don’t get too attached to the couch. Being inactive for over 48 hours can trigger changes in your muscles, making you weaker and more prone to injury, especially to your back. So, while your plan to lounge around and binge-watch all seven seasons of your favorite TV show may sound heavenly, it’s not a great idea for your back.

Following these simple tips can help you alleviate or prevent back pain. Of course, if you feel excruciating pain for several weeks, you should consult your doctor.