Chronic back pain is the leading cause of disability in adults. While you can sustain an injury, chronic back pain is just as likely to develop gradually over years of daily habits that put extra stress on your spine.
The team at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine in Milford, Connecticut, specializes in helping you make simple changes in your daily habits that can prevent chronic back pain. Here are six of our top recommendations to get you started.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
The more weight you gain, the more likely you are to develop chronic back pain, especially in your lower back because it supports your body weight. Carrying excess weight increases your risk of back injuries. Additionally, extra pressure on your lower back leads to degenerative problems, such as a herniated disc, that are often responsible for chronic low back pain.
Your daily eating habits are the building blocks of your weight. The calories you consume determine whether you gain, lose, or maintain the same weight.
Exercise is also essential, but the number of calories you can burn in an hour with activity doesn’t begin to compare to the number of calories you can consume in 10 short minutes if you enjoy sweets, fried foods, or very large portions.
2. Use good posture
Your entire musculoskeletal system functions with the least amount of stress when all your bones and muscles are in proper alignment. If you have poor posture, one or more body parts are misaligned, which places extra stress on the other parts.
Your spine is strong when you have good posture. But slouching or stooping over leads to spine problems such as strained muscles, pinched nerves, and sprained ligaments.
Sitting up straight is only one aspect of good posture. Using good posture also includes following proper technique when you engage in sports and in all your movements throughout the day.
The best way to change your posture is to always be mindful of your body position. Sit up straight when you realize you’re slouching. Pick up heavy items by bending at your knees and keeping your back straight. After you pay attention to your posture for a few weeks, good posture becomes a habit.
3. Strengthen your core
Your back can only support its normal weight load and range of motion when your abdominal and back muscles are strong and flexible. Following a strength-training regimen lowers your risk of the strains and problems that lead to chronic back pain.
Set aside time every day to perform lower back stretches. Engage in strengthening exercises at least twice weekly. If you already have back pain or you haven’t exercised lately, our physical therapy experts can help you develop a regimen that begins slowly and is safe for your back.
4. Wear supportive shoes
Your shoes have a significant impact on the alignment of your legs, knees, and hips, which in turn affects the stress on your back. If your daily wardrobe includes high heels, shoes that don’t have arch support, or shoes that aren’t well-cushioned, your back bears extra stress every time you take a step.
Your risk for chronic back pain also skyrockets when your shoes don’t support your athletic activities. If you’re not sure about the quality of your footwear, bring your shoes with you when you come in for a consultation. We can make recommendations for new shoes, orthotics, or prescription shoes if necessary.
5. Take breaks from sitting
When you sit, all your body weight presses down on your lower back. If you have to sit for an extended period of time, whether at work or during a car ride, you’ll prevent chronic back pain by routinely getting up, stretching, and walking around.
6. Beware of heavy bags and purses
Carrying a laptop, purse, or a load of groceries can put excessive strain on your back that leads to chronic pain. Whenever possible, distribute the weight load evenly rather than carrying the heavy weight on one side. For items like a purse that you carry on a regular basis, make sure they weigh less than 10% of your body weight.
If you’d like an assessment of daily habits that contribute to your back pain or you need help creating a plan to prevent the problem, call our office or book an appointment online today.