Studies show that 80% of us will have back pain during the course of our lives. There are a few things that we can’t do anything about but there are a lot of things we can do to prevent it. If you’ve ever had a backache, you’ll understand why prevention is better than treatment.
Sleep Position: How we sleep can cause or prevent back pain. These tips may not work for everyone, but they are a good starting place. If you’re sleeping on your back, put a small pillow under your knees. If you have a bit of curvature at the bottom of your spine, you may also want to put a rolled up towel in that spot.
If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees. That helps if your top leg tends to move forward in your sleep. If these positions don’t work for you, experiment to find the right fit.
Exercise: Stretching exercises, those that improve core muscles and yoga can all help prevent back pain. Yoga may be surprising, but a study shows that the stretching exercises of yoga can, over a twelve week period, reduce pain and the need for pain medications.
Supplements: The jury is still out on whether or not supplements help prevent back pain or help stop it once it occurs. One study at John’s Hopkins found that calcium supplements in older women didn’t reduce fracture risk.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that glucosamine and chondroitin help. There are few side effects, but if you have a shellfish allergy, it might not be a good idea.
Shoes: What you wear on your feet will have an effect on your back. It isn’t a “one shoe fits all” situation. It’s best to go to someone who specializes in shoes to help you choose what’s right for you. As an example, my back pain was radically decreased when I got shoes that had a negative heel inclination. Orthotics, support and other products can be a big benefit.
Posture: Mom was right. How we sit and stand will affect our backs. In fact, having good posture all of your life will have a dramatic effect on back pain later in life.
Smoking: Why would smoking cause someone to have a back problem? There are two ways that smoking can do this. The first is that it can cause plaque buildup in the vessels that supply blood to the spine. This makes it harder for the back to heal if it’s been injured by some activity or accident. It also contains nicotine, which makes it harder for the cells that build bone to work.
Lifting: Proper lifting techniques can prevent back injury. That doesn’t mean slap a brace on and bend over. It means lift from the knees, don’t lift at awkward angles and so forth. In fact, I have been told that a back brace can often do more harm than good because it doesn’t allow the muscles in the back to work. Having a strong core is important to reducing back pain.