Back Care Awareness
The team at Davies Chiropractic Care’s bring you their top tips on how to take care of your back.
#1 Be more active
your joints and muscles love to move, therefore leading a sedentary life is a recipe for disaster. Find something which you enjoy doing and do it often. Whether it be swimming, cycling, playing golf, lifting weights or something as simple as going for a walk, doing the gardening or taking your kids to soft play and actually getting in there and playing with them. We understand that people lead busy lives or may not be able to do the things they used to when they were younger but there is ALWAYS something you can be doing to keep your body active.
#2 Mobilize or stretch daily
Something we hear a lot in clinic is ‘I don’t have the time!’ There are plenty of ways you can make time to do this. A way Sam makes time to stretch and mobilize daily is, rather than sitting on the couch when she’s watching TV, she’ll sit on the floor and perform various stretching and mobilisation exercises – similar to those you would do in Yoga. She’ll have a foam roller and a trigger point ball by her side so she can incorporate these into the routine also. If you are struggling with what to do, speak to one of the team about different things you can be doing to loosen up your joints and muscles.
#3 Try not to avoid painful movements
During a painful episode, we commonly here ‘I can’t do that as it makes the pain worse’. The absolute worst thing you can do when you are experiencing pain is avoid doing the things you normally do. Your body needs to go through those normal ranges of movements – the movements they were designed to do, in order to keep functioning normally. Feeling discomfort when you are doing something does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Doing these painful movements will actually make your body function more normally, much faster than it would do by avoiding them, as every time you go to do that movement, you will feel paitherefore will keep on avoiding it and eventually it will get to the point where you can’t do that movement at all. If you just push through it, eventually your body will learn that it isn’t causing damage, it will get stronger doing that movement and therefore become less painful.
#4 But, listen to your body
If something is severely painful when you do it, that is your bodies way of telling you to take it easy. During a very acute injury, there are certain things your body will not want you to in order to prevent it causing further injury. You will know the difference between pain you can work through and pain you can’t work through as you are likely to get a very intense, sharp, catching pain with associated muscle spasm. In these cases, the best thing to do it wait it out, use anti-inflammatories/paracetamol, ice, try and be as mobile as possible and let the inflammation subside. As soon as you can start to do normal things again, even if there is a bit of discomfort whilst doing them, do it! But get advice from your chiropractor along the way.
#5 Make regular stops on long car journeys
Long car journeys are a common aggravator of back pain so it would make logical sense to break up your journey into smaller portions. If your journey is an hour long, try and make a stop after 30 minutes. If longer than an hour, we would say don’t leave it any longer than every 45 minutes. Plan your journey and stops in advance by finding out where the service stations are located. Pull over, get out of your car, and have a stretch, even if it is for just 10 minutes. This will take the pressure off your joints, discs and muscles and help to prevent them from getting to the point where they are causing you pain.
#6 Don’t sit in one position for too long
Whether you’re at home or at work, try to make sure that you are not sitting in one position for longer than 15-20 minutes. Either get up to go and make a drink, send your work over to a printer that is further away, simply stand up and have a stretch, use a rise and fall desk so that you can alternate between standing and sitting or if at home sit on the floor and do some mobility work rather than sitting on the couch. Sitting in one position, usually a slouched position for too long puts extra strain through the joints in the spine and over time leads to back pain
#7 Use a lumbar support
There are many different things you can use to support the neutral curve of your lower back. There are ergonomic chairs with built in lumbar supports, you can buy supports from various online shops such as Amazon or you can just use a rolled up towel. They help by encouraging you to sit with a neutral spine rather than with a flexed lower spine. This detrimental position puts the posterior structures such as the discs, facet joints, ligaments and muscles under prolonged increased strain and over time may lead to an episode of back pain.
#8 Don’t stand in one position for too long
Like-wise with sitting for too long, your body just doesn’t like to stand in one position for too long either. If you are in a situation where you do need to stand for a long period, make sure you are keeping the pelvis and lower back moving. You can do this by shifting your weight from side to side and performing pelvic and lower back rocking, rotations and side bends.
#9 Eat a balanced diet and try to keep your weight down
Extra weight will put extra strain on to all your weight bearing joints, including your lower back. Although not well studied, it has been found that people with a higher BMI (above 25) are more likely to suffer with back pain so by eating well, keeping active, and keeping your weight down you can help to reduce the risk of a painful episode.
#10 Don’t stay in bed for longer than 8 hours
During the day, your discs dehydrate as water seeps out of them due to gravity acting upon them which is why you are a bit smaller at night than you are in a morning. However, through the night your discs re-hydrate causing them to become stiffer. 8 hours, give or take, is the optimum amount of time your body needs in bed before your discs start to become maximally hydrated. Anything over that will lead to you feeling more stiff and sore when you wake up in a morning.
#11 Choose the right mattress
This one is always a toughie to recommend to people as mattresses are so individual, but it’s so important you get the right mattress for you as you spend so much of your life in bed. What we always tell people to do is try the mattress out as best as you can before you buy it. Actually go into a store and lie on each mattress and see how they feel before making your decision. Give it a good 5-10 minutes per mattress, you’ll soon discover if it feels right for you. The same goes for pillows.
#12 Never sleep on your front
Sleeping on your front puts strain on your joints, ligaments and muscles from top to tail as you will need to have you head turned to one side causing a twist down your entire spine. Over time this can lead to muscle imbalance and postural imbalance and potentially an episode of back pain. The best position for you to sleep on is your back, with a pillow placed underneath your knees to reduce pressure on the lower back, or on your side, with a pillow between your knees to take the twist out of your spine and pelvis.
#13 Use ice or heat
When you have chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months), heat is absolutely fine to use. However, during an acute flare up, what we recommend is ice. During an acute flare up there is an acute inflammatory process going on. By using ice, this will help to reduce the inflammation and ease the pain. Use a tea-towel around the ice pack to stop it from burning your skin and apply it to the area that’s sore for 20 minutes. Remove it for 40 minutes and then reapply for another 20 minutes. You can do this as often as you need to.
#14 Get an adjustment
There are many things that we do in our lives that cause our joints to stiffen up to the point that they cause us pain. A chiropractic adjustment is one of the best ways to get a joint moving again and restore the restricted ranges of motion. A joint that is moving properly is less likely to give you pain therefore it makes sense to do everything you can to keep them functioning at their optimum.
Written by Sam Davies (MChiro DC)
Davies Chiropractic Care