Dr Xandra (Chiropractor): As a Chiropractor I’ve been treating back pain in my practice for over 10 years and it is safe to say the majority of back pain is lifestyle created. We simply put too much stress and strain on our joints in modern technology filled lifestyles.
From seeing thousands of patients, here are 6 ways to reduce the stress and strain on your back and help you relieve pain. These steps are unlike anything you may have heard before because they have been gained from years of experience treating patients with a wide range of back pain issues.
1. Recline your chair
The spine has 3 natural curves sitting at a 90 degree angle which places increased load through these curves. The stress and strain then increases pressure and wear on the lower back discs.
Yet research since 2006 tells us that reclining back to 135 degrees (or as much as you can whilst working) reduces the load on your spine and relieves pain. Your workstation set-up is therefore extremely important in relieving back pain, especially as many spend hours working and sitting in the same position at a desk.
2. Straighten your legs
Sitting with your knees at 90 degrees – or worse putting you feet under your chair – is bad for your knee joints and means you are contracting and working your hamstrings. If you sit like this for hours in a day your hamstrings will become tight and can start to pull on your lower back.
Many times I’ve heard or read that the answer to back pain is simply to stretch your hamstrings out. However if you sit for hours a day with bent knees you would have to stretch multiple times a day to help. No study has ever found that stretching your hamstrings helps back pain.
The easier answer is to straighten you legs out and place them on a step under your desk. This helps you keep your chair reclined back and reduces strain on your knees and lower back.
3. Ice Therapy
This is the most important piece of advice I to any patients who visit our clinic. Although research on ice is limited, from my clinical point of view I can tell you it has some of the best outcomes on pain out of all the advice I give. It is safe, cheap, easy to do and is used by many top athletes in the form ice baths for muscle soreness, reduced swelling and recovery.
Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory which means it reduces swelling. A lot of back pain is due to swelling either around the joints or discs, so putting ice on the spine naturally gives relief. Heat is a natural inflammatory and in the past 10 years I have yet to find a patient who responds better to heat than ice. Keeping a layer of clothing between you and the ice pack stops a burn and 15-20 minutes is a good timeframe. Also remember to keep the ice pack in the middle of your spine, not off to one side, as that’s where it works most effectively.
4. Work on your foundations
Core muscles are your foundation, like a buildings strength comes from its foundations. Working the area around your pelvis, low back and lower abdomen helps to keep the whole spine in good posture and relieves pain. You can do a basic – but clinically effective – core strength exercise for the whole spine in a minute per day.
I recommend the bird dog exercise to my patients because it is easy to do, works the whole spine and can also work on your balance. I always recommend that my patients do this exercise in the center of their bed as it makes the exercise unstable. Doing core strength exercise on an unstable surface and one side at a time works the muscles of the core in a much more effective way.
5. Eat food to reduce back pain?
As previously stated, a lot of back pain is due to inflammation or swelling of the joints and discs. To help your body reduce this swelling eat foods that are anti-inflammatory. Most vegetables especially any rainbow vegetables have an anti-inflammatory effect. Some spices such as turmeric are also great for anti-inflammatory ailments and there is a lot of research to say it improves joint function and can help with pain relief.
The joints in your body are like the inter-connected parts of a machine. If they move, they need oil to lubricate. If however through lifestyle your joints get stiff, then they can start to wear out and cause considerable damage.
Movement is key to keeping your joints healthier and more flexible. Making simple changes like getting up to get a glass of water or herbal tea regularly helps keep you flexible. Choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift at work keeps you mobile too. Going to see a colleague sat in the same office instead of texting/emailing helps get you more active. Make small shifts and before you know it you will be more active, flexible and have less pain.
Research suggests that people who are active every 30 minutes have better overall health and are shown to have a 55% lower risk of death compared to people who sit for more than 30 minutes at a time.
In my practice I suggest the same time frame, aim for moving every 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be for very long, if however you sit for a few hours without moving you may have to move for a lot longer to loosen up.
Back pain affects a significant portion of the population and modern lifestyle is a common cause.
Making small changes to your lifestyle can not only relieve back pain but also help improve your general health and wellness.
As part of your lifestyle changes if you still find yourself in pain as a Chiropractor I would recommend you seek professional help. Whether that is Chiropractic care, acupuncture, or cupping therapy. Alongside this, having the perfect posture is key to helping relieve and reduce any pain.
Start our expert-designed Posture Solution – a simple 90 day program to make yours perfect.