Control Back Pain with 5 Healthy Actions
The onset of back pain can be sudden and without warning. It can put you flat on your back. It can put you out of work, or put you on the sidelines.
Back pain can be related to a series of inactions; a sedentary lifestyle, sitting too long at your computer or in front of your television.
John Kennedy may not have been talking about Back Pain when he said,
There are risks and costs to actions
But they are far less than the long range
risk of comfortable inaction
President Kennedy experienced chronic and debilitating low back pain for most of his life. His condition limited his mobility, physical activity, and even his “personal” life. The stressful events of presidency added to his chronic pain. He resorted to numerous conservative courses of care including physical therapy, local injections, and bracing. The cause of JFK’s low back pain may be related to a sports injury, repetitive injury, and coexisting medical issues. Aside from conservative care, President Kennedy would undergo multiple low back surgeries that would include fusion at the lumbosacral region.
To control the onset, costs of care and support, and avoidance of chronic occurrence of low back pain, healthy actions must be instilled into daily lifestyle routines and practices.
Read on as I provide 5 Healthy Back Actions that help you control the onset and exacerbation of low back pain.
You will also be able to download the Back-specific, Lean Fitness Workout Grid to manage your back pain, prevent the onset frequency of back symptoms, and prepare your body for athletic performance.
1. Provide the spine a supportive sitting posture.
Sustained and unsupported sitting postures are a major culprit to back and neck pain. Specifically, sitting in a flexed low back posture, and prolonged sitting, place stress on the disc of the lumbar spine.
Sitting at your computer with the head in a forward posture can place stress on the neck muscles and soft tissues of the spine and scapular muscles.
To the extent that present work and daily culture wraps around the computer and such devices it is imperative that sitting postures and ergonomics are maximized with appropriate chairs to protect the spine.
2 excellent recommendations for sit-stand option chairs:
These chairs help in maintaining natural support of the spinal curves, neutral joint position of the hips and healthy ergonomics at your work station.
2. Perform postural relief exercise to avoid fatigue.
Postural relief exercises promote mobility of the joints, soft tissue circulation, and avoidance of fatigue.
3. Clean Eating Habits for a Healthy Back
Providing nutrients through healthy dietary habits helps in maintaining body weight that lessens the stress on spinal structures and joints. Nutritional support to the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems is promoted by avoiding inflammatory foods.
Make these changes to provide a healthy environment for performance and healing when managing or preventing back and neck pain.
Eat Healthy Fats for Pain Relief and Source of Nutrients
Find the right ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids.
The average american diet has a ratio of 1:15 of Omega-3:Omega-6.
Foods high in Omega-6 are pro-inflammatory and include:
- Soy-based Oils.
Foods high in Omega-3 are anti-inflammatory and include:
- Coconut oil
- Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Fatty Fish such as Salmon
The recommended balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is 1:2
The Mediterranean Diet is a great framework to starting a “healthy way” of eating nutritious and anti-inflammatory foods to help fight pain, maintain a healthy body weight, and support healthy spinal structures.
A major contributor is Olive Oil and its’ constituents. The polyphenol hydroxytyrosol found in olive oil, and to a greater extent olive leaf extract, is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Olea 25 ® promotes anti-inflammation at the cellular level for healthy joints, heart health and cellular metabolism.
An additional supportive polyphenol is trans-e-viniferin that is extracted from the grape stem. Higher in oxidative capacity than resveratrol, trans-e-viniferin has anti-inflammatory and cellular protective capacities that support the Mediterranean Way of Eating.
Eliminate Foods that Promote Inflammation
Processed foods can deplete the nutrients required for health and an active lifestyle. It is recommended that you avoid white flour and refined carbohydrates.
Sugar is a major contributor to inflammation and pain. If the sugar in your blood becomes too high you may be insulin resistant. Sugar and the effects of a High Carbohydrate diet can impede neuromuscular function and healing. Poor insulin sensitivity leads reduced fat burning, increased blood sugar levels, and increased fat storage.
Avoid Trans Fats– mostly food in restaurants and fast food joints. Trans Fats include Hydrogenated Oils.
Drink Ample Amounts of Water
Hydration with adequate water benefits joint structures, promotes cardiovascular health, helps remove toxins and cools the body with exercise.
Dehydration of the spinal discs are a contributor to degenerative disc disease.
You must drink one-half your body weight in ounces(160-pound individual drinks 80-ounces).
This does not include alcohol or soda.
Too much juice is not recommended due to the high sugar content. This includes Gatorade.
4. Exercise provides benefits to spinal health
The key benefits of exercise is to prevent spine related injury and reduce pain associated with back and neck pain.
Whether you are a competitive athlete, have a desk job, or manage the household chores or weekend “honey-do” list, paying attention to and engaging in fitness related activities is important for your health and well-being.
Exercise will provide 3 important elements:
- Aerobic Fitness
Strengthening promotes endurance and muscle tone of the extremities and spinal, or core musculature.
The aging body experiences a decline in lean muscle mass, and functional ability.
Adherence to a strengthening program provides a stimulus to protect joint and weight bearing structures of the spine.
It is recommended that resistance training using body weight, resistance bands and light hand weights(dumbells or smartbells) are performed at least 2 times per week.
Download a Copy of the Back-Specific, Lean Fitness Workout Grid Below
- Time Efficient
- Manage Your Back Pain Daily
- Prepare Your Back for Fitness and Sports
- Provide Physical Recovery from the Daily Grind
Mobile joint protect spinal structures and improve function.
Mobile joints allow proper movement patterns for functional ability to bend and squat, stand and sit in static postures, and engage in activities where freedom of movement is allowed(golf, tennis, pickleball).
As the saying goes, “If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it”.
If the hip joints do not have adequate mobility this can effect bending, standing and walking mechanics. Overtime this can place undo stress on spinal structures.
It is important to differentiate mobility vs. flexibility.
Mobility = the ability of a joint to move.
Flexibility = the ability for a muscle to elongate.
Flexibility is not a requirement for a healthy back. You do not need to be a Yoga specialist or trying out for the US Gymnastic Team. If fact, there are many people that suffer chronic low back pain that have too much flexibility. They may be able bend forward and place their hands flat on the floor.
I have seen these patients in my clinic that have this hypermobility due to relying on too much hamstring and back flexibility. This hyperflexibility pattern places excess stress on spinal supporting structures.
Do not obsess with touching your toes, or bending your back in half.
The below recommendations emphasize the mobility of joints that effect spinal movements.
3 Basic Mobility Recommendations:
- Stand up from your desk chair and lean the back into extension, lightly arching the low back 3-5 times.
- Stretch you hip flexors by placing your foot on a chair and lean forward with abdominals tightened to stretch the front muscles of the hip.
- From hands and knees, keep the back in a neutral position(back flat, not rounded) and slowly rock the butt back to the heels, avoiding any knee pain. Perform this 5- 10 times. Movement is emphasized at hips and knees.
Some form of stretching and mobility exercise can be included into your daily routine.
Walking provides health benefits that include mind and body function.
This may only be for 5-10 minutes, but that is okay. During your walk take some deep breaths; inhale through the nose, exhale through pursed lips. You may reach your hands overhead, and behind your back(clasping your hands at your low back). Walking has many health benefits, and is a great way to restore the mind and body.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir (1838-1914)
5. Take a short meditative break for relaxation and stress relief.
The practice of meditation, or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) may reduce pain and make it easier for those individuals with Low Back Pain to carry out their daily activities
The below method can be performed for a short, 2-3 minute microbreak, or with practice, you can build up to 10-15 minutes.
Perform diaphragm breathing:
- Breath in slowly through the nose (inhalation).
- As you do this feel the abdomen push slowly outward.
- This should be a slow 5 second inhalation.
- Pause for a few seconds, then slowly exhale, breathing outward through pursed lips.
- This should be a slow 5 second exhalation.
- As you breath slowly, in and out, focus on the breath. Bring Your attention to rise and fall of the abdomen as you inhale and exhale.
- Try this initially for 2-3 minutes as a great way to relax, become more Mindful of the Breath, and recover the Active Mind.
Mental and emotional stress have a major impact on the occurrence of back and neck pain. The perception of pain alone can be calmed and potentially eliminated through the practice of stress relief practices such as meditation.
To Control Low Back and Neck Pain attention to Postural Relief and Fatigue Avoidance must be practiced on a daily basis. With practice and careful attention to how you use your body in static and dynamic postures, repetitive or acute stress can be prevented.
Developing the habits of physical exercise, eating foods that promote healthy body weight and fight inflammation, and practicing mental and physical recovery techniques, back pain can be controlled.
There is no quick fix, only daily delligance when it comes to resolving back pain. Commitment to this daily practice is rewarded with greater ease in daily function, an active lifestyle and performance on your field of play.