What Is Back Pain?
Most of us will suffer from back pain from time to time throughout our lives. In fact, back pain is so common, it is a leading reason why people visit the doctor and take time off work.
Back pain is characterised by an ache or pain anywhere in the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs.
What Are The Symptoms Of Back Pain?
- Muscle ache
- Shooting or stabbing pains
- Pain that radiates down the leg
- Difficulty bending, lifting, standing or walking
- Pain that improves with reclining
Back Pain Causes
The spine is a highly complex structure, prone to injury and overuse. Anyone can develop back pain, even children and teenagers, however the following factors put you at greater risk:
- Age – back pain is more common from age 30 onwards.
- Sedentary lifestyle – weak, unused muscles in your back and abdomen can contribute to back pain.
- Carrying excess weight – being overweight puts extra stress on your back.
- Improper lifting – bad lifting techniques, ie, using your back instead of your legs, can cause injury and back pain.
- Stress and mental health issues – people who suffer from stress, depression and anxiety are more prone to back pain.
Selfcare Solutions For Back Pain
For ongoing and severe back pain, you should always consult your doctor, however, there are also some simple ways you can protect yourself from back pain.
- Regular exercise
Consult your doctor about a low impact exercise programme that will help you build strength in your back muscles, such as walking and swimming.
- Core strength
Building your core strength, through activities such as pilates and yoga, is very effective in protecting your back from injury.
- Lose those extra kilos
Work towards achieving a BMI in the healthy weight range for your height. Extra weight puts strain on your back, leading to injury and pain.
- Good posture
Pay attention to the way you sit and stand, holding yourself erect and balanced. Change your position frequently and go for regular short walks if you work in an office.
- Good lifting technique
Where possible, avoid lifting heavy objects. If you must do so, always lift with your legs doing most of the work. Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
Take magnesium supplements or, better still, add more foods with magnesium into your diet. Magnesium helps maintain muscle and nerve function, reducing muscle pain. Foods high in magnesium include whole wheat, spinach, quinoa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, dark chocolate, black beans, edamame beans, avocado, tofu and cultured yoghurt.
- Ice or heat packs
Use an ice pack for around 20 minutes after an injury to reduce inflammation. The cold will also act as pain relief. A heating pack is best used to relieve stiff or aching muscles.
Ask your doctor to recommend some gentle stretching exercises to help you improve your back’s flexibility and resilience. Gentle stretching will improve blood flow and help work through tension.
- Manage stress
Take time out every day to practice mindfulness through meditation or other relaxation techniques. Long term stress is hugely detrimental to your health and wellbeing, and a leading cause of muscle tension and pain. For some ideas on what may work for you, take a look at the many smart phone apps designed to help you achieve mindfulness.
Massage is a highly effective tool in reducing back pain by releasing tension and improving blood flow.