Pain is one of those universal things we all deal with. Back pain in particular often is a result of different circumstances including repetitive tasks like jogging, sitting, carrying or lifting.
And these activities can lead to muscle constriction, tension or even stiffness in your lower back.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that around 20 percent of people who struggle with acute low back pain also develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year.
This can really impact the quality or your daily life and your relationships as well.
If you’re looking for some support in lessening the pain as much as possible to get back to normal, there is some good news.
Improving your lower back pain could be as simple as making some practical lifestyle changes.
Here are 7 great changes to consider for improved back pain.
1. Adjust your posture
Posture is one of the worst things for causing and worsening lower back pain. According to Harvard Health Publishing, posture describes:
“The way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, pulling, or reaching.”
In essence, when you have a good posture, it means the bones of your spine (also known as the vertebrae) are in proper alignment.
Consider learning how to sit and stand with good posture. It can help alleviate pressure on your lower back, not to mention that it’ll make you feel better overall due to the increased circulation.
One way you can improve your lower back pain with good posturing is through imagery.
Imagine at all times that there is a straight line that passes through your body. This line starts right from the bottom of the ground and emerging through the top of your head.
And as you walk or move to make it your mission to not bend this line.
There is always the temptation to slouch or bend or even cower. But this notion of a straight line can always help you to keep the body upright.
Another way to improve posture is the shoulder blade squeeze.
Find a comfortable chair and sit, eyes looking forward, feet to the ground and rest your hands on your thighs. In that comfortable position, gently draw back your shoulders, squeezing the blades of your shoulder together.
Hold the squeezed position for a few seconds and the release, bringing your body to a relaxed position
Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
2. Reconfigure your sleeping position
If you think how you sleep doesn’t matter, think again! Because not all sleeping positions are created equal.
Rachel Salas, M.D. who is an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine cautions:
“We could argue that some [sleeping positions] are better than others.” Especially as you get older, “and have more medical issues, sleep position can become positive or negative.”
Most of us know that sleeping on our stomach is the worst thing possible for our back. If you are dealing with daily pain, consider adjusting your sleeping position or choose the right pillow for better sleep and comfort.
The ideal position is one that doesn’t feel like it puts unnecessary strain on your back or other joints.
3. Move more during your workday
Physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 60 to 85 percent of the world’s population does not have enough activity.
As technology and improved transit continue to make our lives more convenient, we also run the risk to move less and less.
In the US alone, sedentary jobs (i.e. jobs that require very little physical movement) have increased by 83 percent since 1950.
This makes physically active jobs only less than 20 percent of the workforce, a drastic decrease from what it used to be (around half) in 1960. So yes there are real risks if you sit all day.
If you are in a job that requires long bouts of sitting, consider taking regular breaks.
These can be only minutes long, but the ability to get up, stretch and get your blood pumping will help improve lower back pain.
4. Add in more exercise
This leads us perfectly to the next little change you can make to improve lower back pain. It is no secret that regular exercise is an important part of a daily healthy body. Regular exercise, in general, is an important fitness goal.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests an individual should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of a more intense workout.
But that’s not all.
Several health leaders and professional advocate for getting in about 10,000 steps each day. This is a way of bettering your health and reducing the health risks caused by inactivity.
As far as lower back pain goes, the more that you work out, the better shape that you and your back will be in.
Try to focus on back-friendly exercise, and really focus on those ab muscles (they’ll make your lower back be a lot stronger and resistant to pain or injury).
5. Eat better
It probably already makes sense that the healthier you eat, the healthier your back is going to be. The key to improving lower back pain is modifying your diet.
Include some anti-inflammatory food that can help combat back pain. For example, you can consider adding salmon to your meals as it includes omega-3s and also helps to reduce inflammation.
Several other kinds of fish that have healthy doses of mega-3 fatty acids can also help improve blood flow to your back and keep you healthier. If you find yourself dealing with quite a bit of pain, have a look at your diet.
And focus on adding in foods that can soothe sore joints and help improve your body’s inner working.
6. Avoid heavy lifting
If you’re looking to improve lower back pain, try to limit your lifting to 30lbs or less. This will help you to make sure that you are not putting undue strain on your back.
If you work in a job that requires frequent lifting like a warehouse, it might be helpful to get a note from your doctor so you’re exempted from those kinds of tasks that require heavy lifting.
It will be both in your interest and your employer’s interest to stay away from heavy lifting. If you must lift heavy weights, try to keep them at waist level to minimize bending.
7. Be cautious with reaching overhead
Another potential aggravator for lower back pain is reaching overhead. Try to use a step stool or chair when getting something down from overhead. Additionally, minimize its weight as much as possible.
While back pain can feel ever-present, the reality is that improving back pain doesn’t have to be radical or medication-induced.
It’s simply about focusing on smaller and more realistic changes that are going to all lead to you enjoying easier, pain-free movement.