Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
Men and women are well aware that minor aches and pains are part of aging.
A balky knee that acts up on rainy days or an old sports injury that still triggers periodic discomfort may not be much to worry about, but a more serious condition such as chronic back pain can be so debilitating that its wise for individuals to do whatever they can to avoid it or delay its arrival.
Millions of cases of chronic back pain undoubtedly go unreported. That’s because many individuals accept back pain as a side effect of aging, while others lack access to health care, making it difficult to pinpoint just how prevalent chronic back pain is.
However, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 estimated that around 577 million people across the globe experience lower back pain, or LBP.
That prevalence should not give the impression that chronic back pain is unavoidable. In fact, various strategies can be employed to prevent back pain and all the negative consequences that come with it.
• Be active. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion notes that physical activity strengthens the back and lowers the risk for developing back pain. The ODPHP recommends individuals engage in back-strengthening and stretching exercises at least two days per week. Chiropractors or personal trainers can recommend safe back-strengthening exercises, which the Mayo Clinic notes include the bridge exercise and shoulder blade squeeze. Stretches individuals can try include the knee-to-chest stretch, the lower back rotational stretch and the cat stretch.
• Embrace new exercise routines. Individuals accustomed to strength training that involves dumbbells and circuit training machines should know that there are other ways to build strength and benefit the back at the same time. For example, studies have shown the value of Pilates in increasing the strength of core muscles, including those in the lower back. In addition, the ODPHP recommends yoga to individuals who want to make their backs stronger and lower their risk for back pain. Many fitness facilities have long since recognized the value of yoga and Pilates and now include each approach in their class schedules.
• Perfect your posture. Another way to prevent back pain is to make a concerted effort to maintain good posture. The ODPHP urges individuals to avoid slouching when standing and sitting and to stand tall with head up and shoulders back. When sitting, sit with back straight against the back of the chair and feet flat on the floor. If possible, keep knees slightly higher than hips when sitting. Alternate between sitting and standing to avoid being in the same position for too long.
• Lift correctly. Poor technique when lifting things, even items that are not excessively heavy, can contribute to back pain. When lifting items, do so with the legs and not the back. The ODPHP urges individuals to keep their backs straight and bend at the knees or hips when lifting items. Avoid lifting especially heavy items without assistance.
Despite its prevalence, back pain is not a given. Individuals can keep various strategies in mind to avoid joining the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who suffer from back pain every day.