Saturday, August 19, 2017

Home Remedies for Back Pain

Try to stand with your weight evenly distributed on both legs, your knees slightly bent, your shoulders down and back, and your buttocks tucked in. Never slouch. It’s even more important to watch your posture while sitting. Pressure on your disks is higher when sitting than standing. That’s why those at highest risk for low back pain have jobs that demand sitting for extended periods—truck drivers and office workers.

“The human back wasn’t designed for six-hour stints in a chair,” says James Zucherman, M.D., director of St. Mary’s Spine Center in San Francisco. “A sedentary job is a set-up for back trouble.” His advice: Sit less and stand more. Take breaks. Get up and walk around at least once an hour. When you sit, fidget. Shift around in your chair. It changes the stress load on your lower back. Cross your legs. Uncross them. Twist this way and that.

In addition, take a long, hard look at your chair. A good desk chair should provide comfortable lower back support. If yours doesn’t, use a lumbar pillow or cushion. The back of your chair should lean back slightly. Keep your back against it. Don’t lean forward. Keep your feet flat on the floor. If you work at a computer, adjust your chair and keyboard height so that your arms and thighs are parellel to the floor, and your eyes are level with to top of your monitor (your head straight ahead, neither up nor down).

  • Ice it. Athletic trainers immediately ice injuries—and with good reason. In one study, two-thirds of people with back pain reported significant relief after using an ice pack. “Wrap some ice cubes or a cold pack in a towel,” Dr. Simons says, “and place it on the painful area for 20 minutes. Then take it off for 10 mnutes, and repeat.”
  • Get out of bed. Recently, British researchers analyzed 10 rigorous studies that compared outcomes for a total of 3,222 back-pain sufferers who were initially advised to either get bed rest or stay active. Bed rest had no benefit in any of the studies. In fact, with bed rest, people recovered more slowly. Wilbert Fordyce, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at the University of Washington School of Medicine, advises: Return to your normal activities as quickly as possible.
  • Mom was right about good posture. “Don’t slouch.” “Sit up straight.” As a kid you probably resented these admonitions. Well, grow up. Mom was right. Good posture not only looks best, it’s essential for a pain-free back. Over time, poor posture places stress on your back that makes you prone to pain.
  • Lift like a pro. It doesn’t matter how light or heavy the object is: Always lift with your legs using your thigh muscles. Never bend over to lift things with your back. Lift straight up, holding the object as close to your body as possible. Don’t twist as you lift. Be sure of your footing. And when you set the object down, again, always lower it with your legs, never with your back.
  • Stand carefully. Rising from a seated or prone position is a form of lifting. If your back has been weakened by misuse or a history of previous injury, rising from a bent position can become the straw that… well, you know the rest, but we’re not talking about camels. Stand as you lift—with your legs, keeping your back as straight as possible.
  • Adjust your car seat. For extra lumbar support, Hayward, California, sportsmedicine specialist Steven Subotnick, D.P.M., author of Sports and Exercise Injuries, suggests a lumbar pillow (available at back stores—see below) or try a rolled up towel behind your lower back. Many newer cars have highly adjustable seats, with built-in, adjustable lumbar supports.
  • Maintain your recommended weight. Even if you’re only a few pounds overweight, shedding the extra baggage can bring dramatic relief from back pain.
  • Check your bed. Mattresses should be neither too firm nor too soft, Dr. Subotnick explains. To make your mattress firmer, place a plywood sheet under it. You might also consider a waterbed. Waterbeds were originally touted as a way to enhance lovemaking. But it was people with bad backs who actually popularized them.
  • Check your bra. Poorly fitted bras can aggravate back pain, Dr. Simons says. If you’ve never been professionally fitted, or if your bra size has changed recently, have a fitting. Wider back and shoulder straps are more back-sparing because they distribute breast weight over a larger area.
  • Ditch the high heels. High heeled shoes were designed by men centuries ago to accent women’s breasts and buttocks, and interfere with their gait, making them appear vulnerable, which was considered sexy. High heels also strain your lower back.
  • Visit a “back store.” Today, there are an estimated 150 stores around the country that specialize in furniture, pillows, and other products to make life easier for people with back problems. “Back-sparing products work best,” says physical therapist Eileen Vollowitz, “when combined with back education, good posture, and exercise.”

Relaxation Therapies to Treat Back Pain

Everyday stresses, tensions, and anxieties give some people headaches, others stomachaches, and still others backaches. John Sarno, M.D., a professor of rehabilitative medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and author of Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, contends that stress, particularly anger, anxiety, and other repressed negative emotions plays a big role in many people’s back pain. Stress triggers the “fight-or-flight” reflex that sends blood away from your central body, and out to your arms and legs to support self-defense or escape. Chronic stress means less blood available to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and disks of your back.

Some research supports Dr. Sarno: Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, gave 82 consecutive back pain patients a battery of psychological tests, and conservative care. The aspect of their lives that most successfully predicted who would still have pain after six months was job satisfaction. The more job problems and anxiety the participants had, the more likely they were to suffer chronic back pain.

Alan Brauer, M.D., says he has had good success treating stress-related back pain with biofeedback. “We see benefit in about half the people who try it.”

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