How to get a strong, healthy back

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How to get a strong, healthy back

One of the most common medical problems of people around the world is back pain.  In the United States alone, up to 80% of all individuals will experience agonizing back pain at least once in their lifetime.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon either for back pain to reoccur with some people developing chronic back pain lasting at least 3 months or more. Many people will simply tolerate the annoyance of the pain but eventually it can be disruptive to a person’s daily activities.

In many cases, it is not necessary to see a doctor for back pain as it usually will go away with or without treatment.  However any person who is experiencing numbness or tingling, if the pain is severe enough affecting walking and or doesn’t improve with medication or rest, a visit to the doctor is wise.  Other problems warranting a doctor’s visit that may be associated along with the back pain include trouble urinating, weakness, pain or numbness in the legs, a fever, or unintentional weight loss. 

Causes of back pain

The causes of back pain are usually the result of a medical condition and not a diagnosis itself.  This could include the following:

·      Mechanical problem such as disk degeneration, muscle tension or spasms or a ruptured or herniated disk.

·      An injury possibly from lifting or twisting improperly. Other causes could be osteoporosis or from a serious injury resulting from a fall or accident.

·      Acquired conditions and diseases such as scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis or various forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

·      Infections and tumors however which are rare causes of back pain.

How to keep your back healthy and pain free

1.  Strengthen back muscles

In order to keep us upright and relieving pressure on the spine, our back muscles must be strong.  The stronger they are the more pressure that is reduced and the less pain you will feel.

The way to achieve strong back muscles is to do exercises targeting the muscles of the abdomen, shoulders and legs.  

2.  Stretch back muscles

Keeping back muscles flexible is very important for a healthy, pain-free back.  A flexible back helps prevent becoming injured and provides a good range of motion for bending over or lifting something from the ground.

Practice stretching movements for the back by stretching the hamstrings and quadriceps in the thigh and the abductor and gluteus muscles in the hips and buttocks.

3.  Improve posture by standing and sitting up straight

Good posture goes a long way in preventing back pain. This relieves stress on the back when you stand up straight.  Aligning your head with your hips and hips aligned with your feet is considered correct posture. 

Exercises that work the upper extremities help improve neck and upper back posture while core and leg exercises enhance lower back posture.

4.  Avoid heavy lifting

If you do lift something heavy, lift correctly by bending your knees keeping your back straight.  This way your leg muscles do most of the work.

5.  Lose weight if overweight

Carrying excess weight will only put a strain on your back resulting in pain.

6.  Wear a good pair of supportive shoes

It’s your feet that take the initial shock of whatever type of surface you are walking on, however a good pair of walking shoes can minimize the shock that gets transferred to your joints and back.  Ladies, if you plan on doing a good amount of walking, standing, or movement during the day, leave the high heels at home. 

7.  Move frequently throughout the day

Movement is good the your back so avoid staying in the same position for prolonged periods of time during the day. Incorporate active task-oriented activities between sedentary tasks such as sitting at a desk all day; walk to the water cooler, walk over to a co-worker’s desk to deliver a message instead of using email, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.