Back pain is often temporary. You pull a muscle, over-exercise, or sit for too long. Or you may suffer ongoing bouts of back pain related to poor posture or other regular activities that cause stress and strain on your back.
The pain may last for a few hours, and then go away entirely. But studies have shown that over time, repeated back pain, even very mild in nature, can lead to chronic and debilitating back problems later in life.
Once you hit your 40s and 50s, your body is not as strong as it was when you were younger. This means that chronic back problems can have a bigger negative impact on your life and your body than when you were healthier. Practice the following five tips for a healthy and strong back, and you limit your chances of suffering from back pain later in life.
1 – Stop smoking
You already know how unhealthy smoking is, but did you know it has been linked to higher instances of back pain, compared to those who don't smoke?
Scientists aren't even sure exactly how smoking is related to back problems. They believe it may have something to do with restricting the flow of blood which contains healthy nutrients. This could lead to problems in your spinal discs, and cause a higher incidence rate of back pain in smokers.
2 – Stop sleeping on your stomach
Sleeping face down puts a lot of pressure on your back. Years of sleeping in this position can consistently and slowly damage your spinal alignment over time, causing serious back problems later on in life. When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees. This cuts the amount of pressure on your spinal cord by half.
For healthy sleep, consider investing in a high-quality mattress or even just a memory foam mattress topper to help support your back.
3 – Lose weight
If you can stay within about 10 pounds of your ideal weight, you can drastically reduce your chances of suffering from back pain.
Get more exercise and adopt healthier eating habits, and you can drop those extra pounds which cause back pain now and chronic pain as you age.
4 – Stop stressing out
Stress, anxiety and depression can cause short and long-term back pain. Any type of stress causes you to flex and tense your muscles. Constant worrying means that you are putting extra stress on your back all day long.
Take up yoga or meditation, tai chi or deep breathing exercises to learn to handle stress and anxiety naturally.
5 – Adopt proper posture, especially if you work in a sitting position all day
Proper posture is so important for a multitude of health reasons. When you slouch over in your chair or on the couch, you put incredible pressure on your lower back and pelvis. Texting, which you probably do dozens of times a day, also causes bad posture.
Back pain is more prevalent among office workers and those who make a living sitting in front of the computer for several hours each day, so stand instead of sitting whenever you can.
To aid good posture:
- Consider investing in ergonomic furniture or even a standing desk.
- Practice exercise that strengthens your core and improves your posture, such as yoga or Pilates.
- Find out about the Alexander technique and try to incorporate it into your daily life.
Looking after your back is worth putting in the effort from an early age, but it's never too late to improve general health and posture to help reduce and manage back pain.