If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. About one billion people complain about this problem, making it the world’s single largest cause of disability. The pandemic led to more people experiencing this painful condition. Doctors say the shut-downs caused people to stop going to the gym, lay on the couch, and eat too much junk food, all of which are bad for the back.
Stretch and Strengthen
Spine surgeon Gbolahan Okubadejo told CBN News the best way to prevent back is by maintaining flexibility.
“We have to actively stretch,” he said, “We have to do things to make sure our bodies remain as limber as possible.”
Dr. Okubadejo said our bodies naturally get stiffer as we age, which increases the risk of back injury. He says stretching is the number one way to combat that stiffness and prevent back pain. He recommends stretching at least fifteen minutes a day, five days a week.
“If your quads are tight,” he explained, “If your hip flexors are tight, then they won’t move the way they’re designed to, and the stress goes somewhere else. And the body, for whatever reason, tends to have the stress go right into the lower back.”
The next best move to avoid back pain is by strengthening your core muscles. These are the ones in your torso, and include back muscles, but also side and stomach muscles, called abdominals. Strengthening these muscles involves resistance training. That can mean using weight machines at a fitness club or using free weights at home. You can even do core resistance training at home using your own body weight by performing exercises like leg lifts, planks, and sit-ups.
“So you are strengthening your abs, you’re strengthening your core, and that, in turn, protects your back and gets you healthier,” Dr. Okubadejo said.
Break Bad Habits
Many people injure their backs while using non-ergonomic workstations. This has become an increasingly prevalent problem during the Covid-19 pandemic as more people than ever are working at home. Typing away on a computer for hours on end in your bed, on the couch or other non-ergonomic settings can cause back pain. That’s why doctors say whether you work at home or in the office, invest in an ergonomic workstation.
“So if you’re working at your dining table,” said Dr. Okubadejo, “Be aware of the height of the table. Maybe get a chair that adjusts to where not as much stress goes into your lower back. Another thing that I love is a standing desk.”
Extra pounds can strain bones and muscles in your back, so try to maintain a healthy weight. That usually means avoiding junk food, which typically contains high amounts of sugar. That sweet ingredient as well as the hundreds of sugar-like substances found in processed foods, such as corn syrup and fruit juice, can lead to inflammation, which many health experts believe is the root of low back pain.
To keep you back working right, don’t smoke. That habit restricts blood flow to the spine and impairs your body’s ability to heal.
Also, consider where you sleep.
“If your mattress is too soft and your back sinks into the mattress then your risk of injury becomes higher,” Dr. Okubadejo said.
When getting dressed, avoid flip-flops and high heels, when possible, and take other precautions.
“You want to put your pants on from a seated position where you’re not stressing your lower back,” Dr. Okubadejo said.
Protect your back by bending at the knees, not at the waist.
What to do When You Experience Pain
If back pain does arrive, doctors say it’s better to move around rather than staying in bed.
Also, proper medications can help.
“A combination of the proper anti-inflammatory and non-prescription analgesics can often lessen the pain and prevent us from going down the route of opioids,” said Dr. Okubadejo.
When drugs don’t work, Dr. Okubadejo said surgery is an option.
“When patients have radicular pain,” he explained, “Pain that travels down your arm that’s relentless. And your MRI shows something that clearly puts pressure on the nerves, that’s surgical. If you have progressive weakness in your arms and legs if you have issues with balance and your MRI or CT scan shows clear pressure on the nerves, that’s surgical.”