The Keys to a Healthy Back
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. The pain can range from mild to severe and can be short-lived or long lasting. Although it may not be possible to prevent back pain, there are things we can do to lessen the impact of low back problems.
Having a healthy lifestyle is a good start to preventing back pain. There are 4 “keys” to having a healthy back:
Whole body exercise is a part of good fitness. Aerobic exercise, keeping your heart rate in the “target range” for at least 15 minutes, is recommended. This should ideally be done 5-6 days per week but even 3 days a week will help keep you fit. Exercises like walking or swimming along with exercises to keep your core strong will benefit you. Core strengthening includes your back and abdominal muscles. Keeping these muscles strong and increasing flexibility will help protect your back. Regular exercise not only helps with strengthening and flexibility, it also helps increase your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you are not exercising.
• Nutrition and Weight Loss –
Being overweight puts an extra load on the spine and lower back as well as your other joints. Talk to your provider about reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Good nutrition is important to your overall health. A sensible diet high in fruits and vegetables and focusing on portion control will help. Vitamin C helps build collagen needed by the discs, and extra calcium can help reduce osteoporosis. Some authorities have recommended 8 glasses of water a day to slow disc degeneration.
• Avoid Smoking-
Smoking can affect your back. A British study found that the more cigarettes a person smoked, the more severe and longing lasting were the episodes of back pain. Smoking reduces circulation in small blood vessels including those that supply the discs in your back. Both the smoke and the nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal. Many back surgeons require their patients to stop smoking before surgery.
• Proper Posture-
How you stand, sit, and lift has a definite effect on your back. If you sit for long periods of time, use a chair with good support. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, keeping your head and shoulders erect. Get up and move frequently. When you lift an object, remember to bend at the knees and tighten your abdominal muscles. Use your legs to lift, not your back! Think about what you are lifting and don’t be in a hurry; get help if you need it.
Author: Suzy Cummings, RN
Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic