Looking After Your Back

How to Keep Your Back Healthy At Any Age


by Richard Ryland


age-well.org > spinal-column.html > Looking After Your Back


This article for agewell.org is about looking after your back. Like many health issues looking after your back is about lifestyle and, as always, prevention is better than the cure.

First you must distinguish between pain and discomfort. Pain is a highly disagreeable sensation carrying with it an equally disagreeable sense of affect. With pain you must take action and start doing something about it. Discomfort should be an early warning sign. So, ideally, the action needs to start when we get backache.

Avoiding Trauma

Many bad backs can be traced to an unfortunate lifting injury. The best advice is to always try and avoid heavy lifting. If you must execute a lift, plan the lift carefully, reduce risk as much as possible (get other people to help or look for alternatives) and lift correctly.

The following changes to your environment were intended for people living with osteoporosis. However, most of them, especially the advice about lifting can be applied to people wishing to a avoid back problems in general. Please click on the link below to go the page on Changes to your environment.

It is a council of perfection but you really can avoid most heavy lifts by rollers, sack trucks, levers and fulcrums etc. You only have one back; you need to take care of it.

At the first signs of backache

At the first signs of backache examine very carefully your life style. You spend almost a third of your life in bed (some longer) and you change a mattress on average every 10 years. It is worth spending time on getting the right mattress. When you sleep, this should preferably be on a firm bed and get someone to look at your spine as you lay on a pillow and your mattress. Your spine should be straight in a lying on side position. If your mattress is too firm it can push your hips up and cause a maligned spine. Too soft and your spine is twisted the other way.

If your pillow is too high or too low it will cause a bent neck. Necks which are taken out of alignment tend to cause back and shoulder problems. The whole length of the spine, in a sleeping position, should be straight. In the writer’s experience most shoulder pain arises from a neck problem. Look at your seating in a car. Driving or passenger the best for your back is a “sit up and beg” approach. Unfortunately many drivers and passengers recline the seat and bring the head forward, this takes the spinal column out of alignment.

When you watch television or cinema, avoid slouching down in the chair again bringing the head forward. Sit in chairs with back fully erect, shoulders back, head up, stomach in and chest out. If you have a lumbar support in the car, use it. You are looking to get comfortable and not laid back.

When walking the same rules apply. You should not slouch when you walk. Help the spine do its job by walking fully erect, head up, stomach in, shoulders back. Yes, you walk like a soldier!

Protecting the Back

You are straining your back if you carry too much weight. So first things first if you are getting back problems diet and exercise quickly to get to a normal weight. Go to Height and weight charts.

Some back experts swear that strengthening back muscles by exercise helps but this should be done with caution. Lifting heavy weights in the gym can cause back problems. Remember always, try and avoid heavy lifting. What in the gym? Yes, you do not have to lift, look at alternatives.

Even issues like carrying shopping can cause back ache by taking the spine out of alignment. Before lifting shopping bags try and even up both hands so that carrying the load is balanced. When walking the same rules apply. You should not slouch when you walk. Help the spine do its job by walking fully erect, head up, stomach in, shoulders back. Yes, you walk like a soldier! Protecting the back.

You are straining your back if you carry too much weight. So first things first if you are getting back problems diet and exercise quickly to get to a normal weight.

Some back experts swear that strengthening back muscles by exercise helps but this should be done with caution. Lifting heavy weights in the gym can cause back problems. Remember always, try and avoid heavy lifting. What in the gym? Yes, you do not have to lift, look at alternatives. Even issues like carrying shopping can cause back ache by taking the spine out of alignment. Before lifting shopping bags try and even up both hands so that carrying the load is balanced.

Relief of back ache

There are many home remedies for back aches. Increasingly shiatsu massage chairs are coming on the market or other forms of massage chairs. Try before you buy. A hot bath may help as may a massage. Baby oil applied by a partner can sooth a back with gentle massage. Applications of heat and/or cold can also assist.

Pain generally is nature telling you something is wrong. Often you need a dramatic change in lifestyle and, if necessary, losing weight will help enormously. Many backs have been assisted by the gentle but diligent pursuit of yoga. Some people like a kneeling chair which ergonomically assists the back.

Herniated Discs - Often back pain particularly involving pain traveling down the back of a leg (sciatica) is caused by a slipped disc. What needs to happen fairly quickly is for the spine in the lumbar region to be stretched and the disc may slip back into place. Some people will hang off a convenient bar or scaffold. For this to work the weight should be taken by the hands for more than ten minutes. The back muscles tend to go into spasm and hanging needs to be long enough for the muscles to relax, say twenty minutes. Some people find laying on the floor, face up, with a rolled up or folded towel in their lumbar area helps but again you need to lie for at least twenty minutes to give the muscles time to relax.

Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Masseurs - Many people swear by the benefits of Chiropractors and Osteopaths. Often a good Chiropractor or a good Osteopath is found by good reputation. Like in everything, there are good and bad Osteopaths and Chiropractors.

Sometimes, for some people a regular sports massage by a good masseur will help keep problems at bay.

Consulting a Doctor - Finally if lifestyle changes do not help and pain is radiating down the legs then a visit to the doctor is recommended. The doctor will often recommend anti–inflammatory drugs, and if that fails painkillers (analgesics). Often physiotherapy may help.

Surgery Should Be A Last Resort

If all else fails then surgery may be the last resort. The surgeon will remove the offending disc. This may not relieve all the symptoms. In choosing a surgeon you should inquire how often the surgeon undertakes that procedure.

As a general rule the surgeon should undertake the procedure, regularly and more than twice per week. It is highly recommended that heavy and awkward lifting is avoided. It is also highly recommended that all options should be tried before resorting to surgery. Surgery without normal weight being tried and lifestyle changes would be unwise. For some surgery by the right surgeon can be life changing but surgery on a back should always be the last resort.


age-well.org > spinal-column.html > Looking After Your Back


*Richard K Ryland is a former Registered Mental Nurse, General Nurse and Nurse Teacher from the United Kingdom. Richard also holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master of Science in Nursing.


Top of Looking After Your Back

Home to age-well.org


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Subscribe to E-zine

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Age Well Newsletter.

Table of Contents

Related Issues


Free Back Pain Relief Offers



Links to Related Pages

Mini-site on Osteoporosis


Osteoarthritis


Herniated Disc



All About Calcium



All About Vitamin D



Vitamin D Deficiency