8 out of 10 Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their life. In fact, it is the second most common reason for medical visits today. Do you help make up this statistic? If you have complained of back pain lately (or felt like it) it may be time to take inventory of the little things that can make a great difference. See if you can answer the following questions without knowing deep down, you may be in trouble (or worse, you may contribute to your own pain.)
– Who knows you have struggled with back pain? A doctor?
– When was the last time you got a new mattress?
– How old is your pillow?
– How many times did you change shoes today?
– What time did you drink your last full glass of water?
– Are you sitting in a room with a live plant right now?
– When was your last cigarette?
– How many hours did you sleep last night?
– How many pounds could you stand to lose?
– What was the greatest distance you walked today?
Let’s take a quick look at a few things you can accomplish this week to start helping yourself – and lesson your back pain.
Consider Surgery: After-Effects and Timing
Isaac Newton is famed for a timeless law of physics: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This certainly applies to surgery. If a doctor recommends a surgery, always get a second opinion. Rushing into surgery to relieve pain may seem like a good idea, but surgery nearly always leads to another problem (even if is years away.) If you get a second opinion, you may become more confident with your decision and never regret (in hindsight) if a new problem arises as the result of a surgery.
Second, weigh and measure the pros and cons of surgery very carefully. Many surgeries that are elective can be postponed. If your issue is getting worse, ask yourself, “How long can I wait to correct this?” Ask your doctor this very question. If you can wait, give yourself all the time in the world to consider a good time. This will postpone additional effects on your body long term.
For many, surgery was yesterday’s woe. You elected to have surgery to correct or cure and now you suffer with related symptoms. Luckily, things that can be done to reduce pain before surgery can also be applied after surgery.
Walk it Out
Walking is great for reasons directly related to back pain. First, most back pain can be linked to muscles overcompensating for inflamed areas of the spine. To reduce pain, it helps to strengthen muscles through a low impact exercise that won’t cause additional damage to the spine, like walking.
Second, walking burns calories (approximately 100 per mile.) Most people could stand to lose weight and by walking 1 mile a day, 10 pounds could be lost in one year without ever changing your diet. Carrying less weight may reduce pain do to the additional stress on muscles. In addition, research suggests that sitting slows metabolism. So, as much as pain makes some want to sit, it can be counterproductive.
Lastly, walking improves you mood. Many studies prove that walking increases the minds ability to function and generates a positive mindset. This is huge for anyone that suffers from chronic pain, so easily related to depression and other health issues.
Any doctor will tell you that walking has many more benefits related to back pain, such as stronger bones and the simple act of being outside absorbing oxygen! Of course, you know your body better than anyone and a doctor should be consulted before activity, specifically after a surgery. But more than likely, walking will make the list. Along with movement, comes rest…
As simple as it sounds, adults can really fight sleep – and getting a full 6-8 hours of rest sometimes is not as easy as it sounds. Often lack of sleep is the focus, but too much sleep can also be the culprit of stiffness and morning pain.
When you are tired, or weak, pain seems to follow the path of least resistance and for those with back pain, it may be the first thing to ache when you begin to tire. Adversely, lying in bed on meds or focusing on the pain while you lay and look at the ceiling isn’t going to get long term results. Our bodies need to move to function. So, if you are complaining of pain, check your sleep patterns – a fast way to getting some relief for many!
(The right bed or pillow may also make a huge difference. If you haven’t purchased a new mattress or pillow since the onset of you pain, research better sleeping accommodations and invest. It can make a world of difference)
Oxygen and Water
It is no secret oxygen speeds recovery time. It is the reason Oxygen is for sale in Vegas on every corner, or more reasonably, the first thing you may get in the emergency room. Oxygen heals. Something as simple as spending more time outside, or getting house plants could increase your chances of feeling better. It may be more extreme, like quitting smoking and breathing healing air as opposed to sucking in toxins by the pack.
Studies also show that drinking pure water decreases the body’s inflammatory response – a widely known cause of back pain. So, drink up, or dive in…
Hot Shower, Warm Bath
As mentioned earlier, back pain is often linked to inflamed muscles, which is why a warm bath or shower can ease back pain. Heat softens tense muscles and when tension is released, pain lessons.
If the Shoe Fits
Many shoe manufacturers or sellers will boast claims to helping with back pain. Some shoes might even deliver results. But there is certainly no shoe out there that helps all the people, all the time. What you can control is finding a shoe that reduces your pain and sticking with it.
Changing shoes several times a day (even going from shoes to barefoot), or adjusting to a new shoe altogether will cause your spine to readjust, with every swap. If you struggle with pain, make it a point to stick to one shoe style, most of the time and see if you don’t notice a difference. You may find that you are one painless step closer to a better quality of life!
Track of your pain on your own and through a doctor. Through a pain journal, you may be able to identify activities (or non activity) that causes more pain. Definitely see a doctor and share what you find as well as ask about medication and therapy. In addition, a doctor’s records can be invaluable if your pain ever leads to disability. Don’t suffer alone, share with someone that can help you!
Most of all, share with others when you are confronted with bending or lifting while in pain. Preserve your health by dropping the superman/superwoman complex and simply refuse to lift or bend. Instead, ask for help.
Remember, just as pain can be caused by the slightest thing, the slightest thing can also help beyond measure.