About 65 million Americans have had a recent bout of back pain, and about 16 million develop chronic back pain. Back pain limits what you can do, causes lost productivity, and can be expensive.
At Apex Medical Center, our expert providers prefer to help you avoid pain instead of help you manage it — but we will provide tools for managing pain if that’s what you need. This post focuses on avoiding pain by presenting seven risk factors for back pain. Whether you’ve experienced bouts of back pain and want to avoid that in the future, or you want to make sure that you don’t develop a chronic condition, addressing these risk factors may help.
1. Quit smoking
You may not see a connection between smoking and back pain, but there is one. Smoking, or tobacco use generally, restricts your blood flow, which can affect the health of the discs between your vertebrae.
Smoking is bad for you, but we understand how difficult quitting can be. If you want to quit but you’re struggling, talk to us. We may be able to make helpful suggestions. There are medications, support groups, and many other approaches to quitting and we want to help you find the one that works for you.
Regular exercise leads to better physical fitness. One of the biggest predictors of whether or not a person will experience back pain or develop chronic back pain is their overall fitness. Poor physical fitness increases your risk.
Exercise doesn’t have to take place in a gym, and there are many activities that can help you become fitter. If you aren’t sure where to start, discuss it with our staff. We may be able to help.
3. Work on mobility and flexibility
Your core muscles include the muscles of your trunk, your abdominals, and your back. When they are strong and flexible, they provide appropriate support for your spine. Having a strong core protects your back and can help you avoid pain.
Walking, jogging, and swimming are great forms of exercise, but to improve core strength and flexibility, you may need to consider yoga, tai chi, or performing a stretching routine each day.
4. Address mental health issues
Although you can’t control whether or not you have a mental health condition such as depression, you can make sure to do what you can to treat that condition. Depression and anxiety are linked to pain.
Whether you take medication, see a therapist, or have other ways to address your mental health, doing so can help you keep your back pain-free.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Weight gain, being overweight, and obesity are all risk factors for back pain. It’s much easier to say “lose weight” than it is to actually lose weight, but it’s worth the effort. Eating a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and an appropriate amount of sleep can all help you lose extra pounds and stay in a healthy range.
6. Learn proper lifting techniques
“Lift with your legs, not your back” is a well-known maxim, but understanding it and actually practicing it are two very different things. If you lift heavy objects regularly, talk to your provider about how you can learn proper lifting techniques. You may need a visit or two with a physical therapist or a personal trainer.
7. Lower your stress levels
Psychological stress is associated with low back pain. Stress, which has a perfectly reasonable biological purpose, is quite harmful in abundance. If you have chronic stress, it’s likely impacting your health and may be contributing to your back pain.
Schedule time for pleasant activities, get regular exercise, lower the number of obligations and commitments in your life, and get plenty of high quality sleep in order to lower your stress levels.
Even if you do everything you can to lessen your risk of developing back pain, there are some risk factors you can’t control, such as your genetics and your age. We’re happy to talk about your particular situation and to help you find ways to manage your pain if that’s what you need. Schedule an appointment at the location most convenient for you.