Back pain can hinder us from taking part in the fun activities we love and can also interrupt our day to day life. However, relatively small changes to your routine and overall lifestyle can make a huge impact on your spine health! Outlined below are 6 lifestyle changes you can make to start the New Year off right.
1. Exercise more carefully
Staying healthy overall includes the health of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your spine. By monitoring these key areas you can minimize painful flare-ups. When exercising and lifting weights, be conscious of how you lift: always use the power of your legs and keep your back straight, and stretch before any strenuous physical activity. Consider working closely with a personal trainer, physical therapist, or doctor to create a regular stretching program.
2. Supplement your diet
This may come as no surprise, but it’s important to get enough vitamin D, be it through sun exposure or a supplement. Vitamin D helps keep your bones, including your spine, healthy and strong. Additionally, remember to drink plenty of water, as doing so can enhance the height of your intervertebral disks. Did you know your body is composed mostly of water? Staying hydrated will keep you fluid and reduce stiffness to your muscles.
3. Sleep in a new position
If you notice stiffness when you wake up in the morning, try sleeping on your side to reduce any curvature in your spine. You should also sleep on a fairly firm surface. For tips on choosing the right mattress, check out a previous post – How to Find the Right Mattress.
4. Wear supportive shoes
How you dress in the morning can also contribute to your back pain! Wear comfortable shoes that support your body weight – and if you must wear heels, consider a low-heeled shoe. Bring flats or sneakers to wear when you’re in transit to give your spine the support it needs when you’re on the go!
5. Ditch bad habits
Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine and can cause the spinal discs to degenerate. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, “The relationship between pain and smoking is complex and full of contradictions. Nicotine has analgesic properties, for example, and yet clinical evidence shows that smokers are at higher risk for developing back pain and other chronic pain disorders.” If you need help quitting, visit NY Smoke Free for tobacco-free tips and resources that can help you put a plan together to quit today.
Be aware of how you sit throughout the work day. Remember to keep your core engaged as you adjust your posture. Make sure your back is straight and your shoulders and knees are relaxed, with legs at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Try also to sit in chairs or car seats with good lumbar support. It’s also a good idea to switch positions often, and to get up every hour or so to stretch and walk around. For more posture tips, visit one of our most popular blog posts, here.
And now, the requisite warning. Before trying anything new, you should keep in mind the below warning signs and seek medical attention if any pain:
- Extends down your leg
- Increases when you lift your knee to your chest or bend over
- Follows a recent fall or trauma
- Lasts more than three weeks
- Becomes worse when you rest, wakes you up at night, or is associated with a fever
- Is associated with bladder or bowel problems
- Is associated with numbness or weakness in your legs
As long as you’re in the clear, happy habit-forming! What new lifestyle tip will you try in 2015? Tell us on our Facebook page!