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Straight Back, tips to keep your back healthy

Tips to keep your back healthy and straight

Most of us have experienced bouts of back pain at some point of our adult lives. Today, back pain and related conditions is said to be one of the most frequent medical complaints. It is also one of the most common reasons for lost work time, coming second only to the common cold. Here we explore the common causes of back pain and explore tips for maintaining a healthy back. 

Back pain is broadly divided into two categories. These are chronic back pain and acute back pain. Chronic back pain is defined as back pain that persists after an injury/surgery or if its cause is hard to determine. Acute back pain on the other hand refers to a brief episode of pain that manifests suddenly. It can develop into chronic back pain eventually if not treated correctly on time. 

Mechanical conditions of the spine such as back strain, disc herniation, disc disease, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis reportedly cause almost 98% cases of back pain. 

Common causes of back pain

Common causes of back pain include:

Disc herniation

This condition refers to the rupture or tear of the cartilage surrounding the vertebral discs. This occurs when the pressure from the vertebrae on either side of the affected disc squeezes out the nucleus pulposus (cushioning substance in the inner core of the vertebral disc). Studies show that the pressure on the nucleus pulposus is greater when you are sitting. Hence, this condition is especially prevalent amongst individuals in a sedentary occupation.

Osteoarthritis/spinal stenosis

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis associated with ageing. Osteoarthritis of the spine can be accompanied by a condition called spinal stenosis. Patients with spinal stenosis complain of tingling, weakness, numbness and/or pain radiating down the arm or leg. 

Ankylosing spondylitis

This is a chronic inflammatory condition that first affects the spine and its nearby structures. It eventually results in the vertebrae fusing together. Ankylosing spondylitis has strong genetic links and is generally seen in men aged below 30 years.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition of the spine that affects the lower vertebrae. In this condition, one vertebrae slips forward over the vertebrae below it. It can be congenital (present at birth), isthmic (caused by a defect such as a fracture in the bony supporting vertebral structure at the back of the spine) or degenerative (caused by degenerative disc disease). People with a family history of this condition are more likely to develop it. Performing some activities such as gymnastics, weight lifting etc can also increase the risk of developing this condition. 

Trauma

Any type of injury due to any traumatic event such as an accident can result in fracture or muscle injury causing back pain. 

Infection

Infections can cause (very rarely) acute and chronic back pain.

Cancer

Cancer causes less than 1% of all back pain cases.

Other causes

Other conditions such as abdominal aortic aneurysms, kidney stones or perforating stomach ulcers are also known to cause back pain. Although such cases are not very common. 

It is without a doubt that today, our sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of chronic and acute back pain. Lack of exercise combined with long hours of sitting in wrong postures renders the back so weak that even simple movements like bending or even coughing can result in conditions such as herniated discs. 

Maintaining a healthy and strong back is extremely important, as the spine forms the core of our skeletal structure. Any damage to this region can cause extreme pain and sometimes loss of mobility. 

Also, read: Severe pain in heels during the morning: do I have Plantar Fasciitis?

Tips to keep your back healthy

To help you keep your back strong and straight, we have compiled a few tips for how to keep your back healthy. 

Sit right! 

Posture is one of the key factors to consider to maintain spinal health. Many of us are guilty of ignoring the way we sit. Especially since it is natural to slouch or hunch after many hours of sitting in the same position.

The thing to keep in mind while sitting is that it is best to sit with a relatively straight back. The best way to do this is to sit with your posterior right back in your seat. Straighten yourself, push your shoulders back and then relax a little. Using ergonomic furniture will also help you to maintain a good posture. 

Stay active

Sitting or staying inactive for prolonged periods of time is not good for the spine (or the rest of your body). Staying active and physically fit is one of the most basic ways to stay healthy. You don’t have to do high intensity workouts, just a simple stretch and a walk around the office every couple of hours can have a significant positive impact. 

Mattress matters

On an average, we spend anywhere between 6-8 hours sleeping. What we sleep on plays a significant role in maintaining the health of our backbone and spine. Many of us get so comfortable with a specific type of mattress that we tend to put off changing it. There is no specific magic mattress that suits everyone so it is important that you choose a mattress that feels the most comfortable to you. If you are experiencing stiffness and pain in the back that does not seem to go away, it is a good idea to think about changing your mattresses. You can also try changing the position you sleep in. 

Lifting technique

One common cause of chronic and acute back pain is poor lifting technique. 

Even lifting moderately heavy objects, or the simple act of bending down to pick up something can strain the back and result in pain. 

The first thing to keep in mind is to never lift things which are too heavy, especially if your body is not used to the stress. The ideal lifting technique is to bend at the knees and lift keeping your back straight

It’s all in the walk

When you are walking, it is advised to avoid leaning forward or backward. Bring your stomach in slightly, engage the core, tuck the buttocks in and tilt your hips forward a little. This is considered the best walking posture

Avoid straining your neck

These days, along with minding our backs while going about our day to day life, we also have to pay attention to our neck. Especially as we spend the majority of our day looking down on one screen or the other. Remember to practice simple neck exercises and rotations every couple of hours to avoid stiffness and pain.

Use the right footwear

There are three main factors to keep in mind while selecting footwear. These are “form”, “fit” and “function”. While form refers to the visual aspect of the shoe, fit and function are the most important factors associated with how the shoe feels and impacts the body. Ill-fitting or uncomfortable shoes have a huge impact on how we walk and our general posture. Opt for cushioned and supportive shoes and avoid high heels or heavy shoes etc. 

Also, read: From bunions to hammertoes : How to avoid the shoes that kill your feet

We are what we eat

A well balanced diet has a number of benefits on the body. It is also important to follow a healthy diet to maintain good spinal health. Excessive weight gain and obesity can result in excessive pressure on the back. Diet also impacts the nutrients going into the spinal cord. So, it is essential that you make your eating choices carefully. 

Core exercises

Most spine health exercises focus on improving flexibility and strengthening the core. The core refers to a band of muscle that wraps around our stomach. It is essential in maintaining good posture and having a healthy back. You can enroll in pilates and yoga for a healthy back, as these activities focus on flexibility and core strength.  

Massage

There is nothing like a massage to squeeze out the stress from our body. The occasional massage is the ultimate treat for our backs. It improves circulation and releases the tensions in the muscles to relieve pain and stiffness. 

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Author: Dr Reetadyuti Mukhopadhyay
Dr Reetadyuti brings over 11 years of rich experience in the field of shoulder, arthroscopy and sports injury. He completed his MBBS from MAMC (Delhi) and is a gold medalist in MS Orthopaedics from PGIMS (Rohtak). Having experience of more than 4000 ACL surgeries, 2000 shoulder instability surgeries, 2000 rotator cuff repairs, and more than 1000 PCL, he has successfully treated many national & International level athletes
 
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