Chronic pain in the neck or back is one of the most common ailments of everyday life. Repetitive movement or lengthy sessions in front of the computer, lifting the laundry or even abruptly getting out of bed can trigger a painful spasm in our neck or back muscles. So what can be done to prevent this common curse?
Harvard Medical School has put together an excellent article available online titled: “Back Pain: Finding Solutions for your aching back.” What follows is a synopsis of that article and a few other helpful suggestions.
Good posture is the first step toward avoiding problems. Envision a straight line going through your spine with your head pulling you upward as high as possible. Your head is a 20lb ball that you carry all day long. Your neck and back will thank you for carrying that ball in a balanced position rather than off the spinal center line. Sit and Stand Tall!
The stomach and back muscles protect our spinal column from injury. If the muscles are flaccid, before getting out of bed in the morning or after a long sitting session, be sure to do some isometric butt squeezing or mild stretching before you hop out of bed or jump up from your chair.
Some helpful stretches include:
- Squeeze back your shoulder blades together while sitting
- Lean against a wall corner to stretch your chest out, and finally grab your shoulder with the opposite side arm and raise your elbow, switch sides and repeat.
- That’s it! There is no 3rd step!
Aerobic exercises safer for your back are low impact bicycling, swimming and walking. The more overweight you are, the higher is the risk for your abdominal fat throwing off the balance of stress on your spine. Nicotine from smoking reduces blood flow to the spinal column and results in a higher risk for osteoporosis.
Finally develop back healthy habits:
- While standing keep one foot on a small step stool and switch often.
- Take a break after standing or sitting for a moderate period.
- Always use hand support on knees or solid object when bending at waist
- When sitting, keep your knees higher than your hips.
- Repetitive chores like vacuuming should be for short 10 minute sessions followed by another motion or activity.
If you are unfortunate enough to have back/neck pain, I highly recommend reading “Healing Back Pain” by John E. Sarno, M.D. This explains the source and remedy of more than 80% of all cases without drugs, surgery or exercise.
Till Next Time,
— Dr. Bob