6 Healing Tips for Back Pain

Back pain is a common condition that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. Here are a few tips that may relieve the pain.

Use Chairs Correctly

Depending on how you sit in them, many different types of chairs are good for people whose backs ache. Obviously it’s better not to slouch, slip down or lean to one side, even if you feel it relieves the pain.

An upholstered chair with a seat cushion that evenly distributes your weight can help those who may have a herniated disc, piriformis syndrome (pain in the butt) and all types of bursitis. Pressure is minimized in problem areas and the whole body has support. Un-upholstered straight-backed chairs can also bring relief because less support and a flat seat produce improved posture and better self-monitoring of weight distribution, and they let the ischial bones (the “sitting bones”) protect the large nerves that travel through the buttocks. Make sure your office chair is adjustable.

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Sleep on a Proper Mattress

If you feel you’re “sleeping wrong,” or if you’re stiff and achy when you get up in the morning, the problem is probably musculoskeletal and relatively easy to deal with. I recommend doing a few forward bends and whole-body stretches before going to bed for the night. If that doesn’t help, a harder mattress or futon might be the answer. A mattress that is neither too soft nor too hard prevents the body from arching or sinking and preserves good standing posture when you’re lying down. Some people swear by Tempur-Pedic and memory foam. Studies have not found convincing evidence for recommending any specific type of mattress for the prevention of low back pain, but a medium-hard mattress may be better than a hard one. One thing is for sure: replace a mattress that is more than 10 years old.

Change Suspicious Patterns

You must become a detective to figure out what causes your pain. If your back hurts, look for clues in your past and present. Do you know what brings the pain on and what takes it away? When you’ve got some ideas, you can carefully experiment by starting or stopping an exercise or other repetitive activity. Mix things up by changing shoes, chairs and postures and see if it helps.

Consider having a professional examine the way you walk, because if you have a gait irregularity, it may very well be causing back pain, and you may need physical therapy.

Wear Proper Shoes

Is it obvious to point out that shoes are our foundation, and that we also use them as cushions and levers when we walk? Ill-fitting shoes influence posture, just as foot abnormalities do, and often cause back ache. Change your shoes often so that you don’t overuse foot gear that may be doing you harm.

High-heeled shoes bring weight forward, arching backs and causing pain. Narrow toes keep the body weight back. Getting high-heeled shoes with narrow toes can cause problems, as the combination will almost certainly create painful contortions when you stand and walk. Shoes with a roomy toe box and a platform may be a bit of a compromise.

As for men, shoes must fit well. If they’re a little small, it can affect hamstrings by making them tight and negatively influencing the movement of the hips.

Take a Warm Bath

If you have musculoskeletal pain, sciatica or piriformis syndrome, warm water can go a long way towards eliminating gravity and take the pressure off. It’s soothing and relaxing to spend 20 minutes submerged up to your chin in a warm (not hot) bath. Do it two or three times a day if your skin doesn’t get too dry. If you have multiple sclerosis, don’t take warm baths.

Stock up on Specialized Cushions

The advantage of special back cushions offered by pharmacies, catalogs and various sites online is mostly that they remind the sitter to pay attention to posture in the thoracic spine by sitting up in a straight but relaxed position.

A lumbar roll cushion attached to a chair back is one good example. Portable and inflatable cushions meant to cover both chair seat and back are good for spinal stenosis, radiculopathy and musculoskeletal pains in the back. Gel cushions are good for piriformis syndrome and muscle spasm in the buttocks; a patient I saw last week kept hers with her at all times and even took it to the movies.

It’s not difficult to find specialized cushions to make car seats and office chairs more comfortable. Try out different cushions to see which ones are most effective.

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