Taking care of your back
The back extends from the neck, down to the buttocks, lending support to many structures and organs en route like the ribs and the pelvis. The back is formed by bones called vertebrae which are placed one on top of the other to form the spine.
There are many causes of backaches and most of them can be prevented by applying some basic principles, while others are serious enough to prompt a visit to the physician. Here are some general tips one can follow to keep the back in good shape.
1. Pay attention to your posture:
This cannot be said enough. Slouching, sitting on sofas which do not offer firm support to the back and sleeping in an awkward position may give you a stiff back the next morning. Reclining in a chair without support to the lower back in the form of a cushion is a no-no. Sleeping on the side in the foetal position is the best way to take the pressure off a weak back.
2. Maintain optimum weight:
When you put on more weight than your frame can carry, you put pressure on the muscles of the back and abdomen which were not designed to be overloaded. This kind of backache is simply the muscles protesting against the added burden.
3. Avoid direct pressure on the spine:
When someone other than a professional offers to give you a back massage they may put pressure directly over the spine. This is a wrong technique and may further compound the problem. The best way is to massage on both sides of the spine in a symmetrical fashion with circular motions.
4. Be active and on the move:
Being in any one posture for long intervals of time causes a sore back. If you have a desk job, make sure you walk during your coffee and lunch breaks. This improves your blood circulation and uses the muscles to an extent.
5. Bend correctly:
While bending, one must remember not to bend from the waist but from the knees keeping the back straight as far as possible. This is especially important while lifting luggage or heavy items.
6. Increase exercise reps slowly and steadily:
Many people injure their backs while working out in the gym because of lack of correct instruction. Overdoing abdominal crunches, using heavier weights than you are used to and increasing your reps drastically will land you with a bad back. You land up with a muscle strain and then have to ease off or avoid the workout altogether.
7. For an acute backache:
Put up your feet and get some rest. Use ice packs a few times a day for the first two days, then switch over to heat in the form of hot compresses or a hot water bag.
8. Stretch a sore back:
Stretching is a great way to relieve backache. While lying flat on the bed, bring your knees slowly to your chest and put a little pressure then relax and repeat. This is helpful for lower back pain.
9. Get out of bed right:
When the alarm clock rings every morning the first thought is to hurry out of bed. Resist the thought and take your time. First roll over to the edge of the bed and lie flat on your back. Then bring your feet down to the floor and bend your upper body sideways. Do not get up vertically and sit in bed as that puts a lot of pressure on the back.
An aspirin a day can help chronic backaches, which last for days together due to their anti-inflammatory effect. An alternative is ibuprofen or another NSAID. Before starting on medication, check with your doctor first.
Bonus tip! Join a yoga or t’ai chi class:
The stretches in yoga and t’ai chi when done correctly will strengthen back muscles so make sure you find a good instructor for whatever you choose to follow. Backache will be a thing of the past.