Back pain is a fact of life for many people. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Low back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in health care costs each year. With lost wages and decreased productivity, that figure easily rises to more than $100 billion.
A Closer Look at Back Pain
The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. Back pain can be caused by sprained ligaments, strained muscles, ruptured disks, and irritated joints. While auto and work accidents or sports injuries can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements – for example, picking up a paper clip from the floor – can have painful consequences. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain.
Sometimes back pain is sharp and intense and heals in a few days or weeks. Others experience back pain as a chronic condition, seriously altering their ability to work and enjoy family time and other leisure activities and can lead in some cases to depression. A recent survey of health conditions identified back pain as the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
Preventing Back Pain
Spinal health is an important factor in preventing back pain, as well as maintaining overall health and well-being. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) encourages people to take steps to improve their spinal health and avoid injury.
Approaches such as better nutrition, exercise, ergonomic workspaces and proper lifting and movement techniques can go a long way in helping people to strengthen their spines and potentially avoid serious injury and chronic pain.
Treatment for back pain has evolved over the years. Research now supports first trying drug-free, conservative options for pain management while remaining as active as possible during recuperation. While medication may be necessary for some patients, often a conservative approach may alleviate pain and even lessen or eliminate the need for prescription painkillers.
Beyond the risks of overuse and addiction, prescription drugs that numb pain may also convince a patient that a musculoskeletal condition such as back pain is less severe than it is, or that it has healed. That misunderstanding can lead to over-exertion and a delay in the healing process or even lead to permanent impairment.
Spinal manipulation, one of the main methods of treatment used by chiropractors, is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. It was also found to be a cost-effective option when used either alone or combined with other therapies in a 2012 study.
In 2017 the American College of Physicians (ACP) updated its guidelines for the treatment of back pain, citing heat therapy, massage, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation as recommended options. Chiropractic care for back pain incorporates therapeutic modalities and rehabilitative exercises to help stabilize and prevent re-occurrence.
13 Tips for a Healthy Spine
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Exercise, ergonomic workspaces, and proper lifting are a few things that can help you avoid serious injury.
- Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
- Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities.
- Maintain proper posture.
- When standing, keep one foot in front of the other, with your knees slightly bent. This position helps to take the pressure off your lower back.
- Sleeping on your back or stomach puts excessive pressure on your spine. Choose a side position instead.
- Avoid twisting while lifting. Twisting is one of the most dangerous movements for your spine, especially with added weight.
- If an item is too heavy to lift, pushing it is easier on your back than pulling it. Whenever possible, use your legs, not your back or upper body, to push the item.
- Do NOT bend over at the waist to pick up items from the floor or a table. Bend at the knees.
- When sitting, keep your knees higher than your hips with your head up/back straight. Don’t slouch. Try to maintain the natural curve in your low back.
- When texting, bring your arms up in front of your eyes so that you don’t need to look down at the screen, putting unnecessary pressure on neck and spine.
- Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.