Getting Your Back Back

Back pain – something most Americans experience a few times a year. Wouldn’t it be nice to know why, and how to prevent it?

~Contributed by D. Green

One good reason for back pain is lack of muscle strength. When back muscles are weak, they tire when supporting your back, and lose their ability to support you in more straining positions. Exercising three times a week strengthens the muscles and can actually reduce the risk of chronic back pain by 43%, according to researchers in the Samsung Medical Center in Korea. Exercise also has a myriad of other benefits, which don’t bear listing, including weight loss. Even 5 pounds can increase the risk of spinal injury, the study found.

Poor technique is another leading cause of back injury. Never bend over to pick up heavy things; always crouch, and lift with the item close to your body. Don’t twist over to lift something that’s fallen off your chair or desk; twisting your back while lifting even a pen is a great way to strain the cartilage discs in your spine.

There are some old myths about back pain that need to be discarded. Hard mattresses and sitting straight are two to forget immediately. The spine isn’t straight, so a hard mattress is actually pushing your spine out of line. A soft mattress, though, isn’t much better, allowing your spinal column to sag out of shape. Choose a mattress with a medium amount of give.

While good posture is great, sitting upright actually puts weight on your spine, which over the course of the day, can strain it. Leaning back, forward, standing, walking, and stretching throughout the day relieve the tension.

Back pains aren’t all physical. Possibly half of lower back pains in the United States can be traced to stress or other psychosomatic reasons. Take a warm bath, meditate, or get a massage. It could make that pain go away. Heat relaxes muscles, but so can sniffing relaxing scents, or visiting the chiropractor or acupuncturist.

19. May 2008 by Ruth Folger Weiss
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