December 30, 2020
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Many people among us get back problems at one time or another. You might sleep awkwardly or wrench your back while lifting something heavy. Or you might hurt your back in an accident. But often, says physical therapist Eric Robertson, DPT, who also is a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the culprit is too much sitting and not enough moving.
“We’re largely a sedentary society, and so that sedentary lifestyle is the primary thing that we have to work on”, says Robertson.
Robertson says feeling better with back pain doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some effective steps:
1. Avoid bed rest
Studies show that lying down too much can slow recovery and raise the pain.
“Over the last 25 years or so, probably the one thing we’ve learned definitively about back pain and bed rest is that is not OK,” says William Lauretti, DC, an associate professor at New York Chiropractic College and a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. Instead, “you want to be as active as you can be with your back pain.”
You may not want to move when you’re in pain, but it’s important to do as much as you can handle.
Robertson says most back pain isn’t serious, even if it may be very painful. “So not being afraid of motion and continuing to move despite the pain is something that’s really important”, he says. Walking is a good choice you can do on your own. You also can work with a physical therapist to learn how to spot dangerous levels of pain and which moves are best for you.
3. Keep good posture
Pay attention to the way you hold your back when you sit, stand, walk, sleep, or do day-to-day activities. Good posture is when all the bones in your spine are correctly aligned. Poor posture can leave your back stiff and tense. This often to leads to back pain.
Lauretti offers these tips on posture:
Here are some general tips to maintain good posture:
4. Sleep smart
The ideal bed, Lauretti says, is one that’s “comfortable for you.” As for the best sleep posture, he says on your side or back is easier on your back than sleeping on your belly. If you’re face down, your head will be turned all night so you can breathe, which can lead to neck pain.
It’s said that tucking a pillow between your legs to help align your hips lessens your back pain.
Back pain can be linked to stress, tension, and other non-physical problems, Robertson says. Massages and acupuncture may help loosen muscles. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices may help lift your mood, stretch your muscles, and make you relax so you can better manage your back pain.
Some people say mediation made them feel alive, especially when their back pain made it painful to move freely.
6. Call your doctor
If your back pain doesn’t go away after 4 weeks or if you have long-term pain that lasts beyond 12 weeks and keeps you from carrying on with your daily activities, see your doctor. They can help pinpoint the cause of your pain and may suggest new therapies. Get medical attention right away if your legs tingle, feel numb, or weak.
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