Tips to Build a Better Back

I am a huge believer in the power of intention. By saying your thoughts out loud, letting others know of your dreams and future plans, doors open and opportunities arise. I've always said the universe gives you what you need.

I was recently helping a friend of mine who has been plagued with back pain for the past few months. I tried to use my professional knowledge to help her figure out the possible causes of her constant discomfort and create a program to strengthen and stretch the muscles supporting her core, hopefully avoiding a trip to the doctor. Afterward, I thought about increasing my own commitment to my back program, making sure to include my back exercises in all my daily workouts.

I had no idea that the power of intention could actually backfire (no pun intended).

Shortly after that discussion, I woke up with an unfamiliar sensation; a dull ache in my lower back. I was shocked. I have always prided myself on not being one of the thousands of American adults who suffer from occasional low back pain. Was age catching up to me? Would I have to eat my words?

Following the same advice I had given my friend, and had been giving clients for years, I swung into action. Ice and Advil 'round the clock, decrease the intensity of workouts, and stretch, stretch, stretch. It worked. Within a few days, I was feeling no pain, just confusion. Where did it come from in the first place?

So, I began pooling my knowledge and increased my research on avoiding low back pain. I do think I discovered the cause of my own discomfort. I guess the universe did deliver what I needed, along with a new mattress and an office desk chair!

Here are EnerGcoaching's Tips to Build a Better Back, and I do hope it helps ease you through your busy days pain free.

1. Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess body weight causes a constant pull on the back muscles forward, and weakens the abdominal muscles, which need to be strong to support the spine. A lo-fat, lean protein, high complex carbohydrate diet and a consistent exercise program will make you look and feel great, and help alleviate low back pain.

2. Develop and adhere to a routine that strengthens the core muscles. In order to support the many movements we put our back and body through in the course of a day, we need strong abdominal, low back and waist muscles, and flexible hamstrings (back of the leg muscles). If you are unsure of the correct exercises to accomplish this, consult a physical therapist or certified personal trainer. Invest in one session and learn a routine that is effective and efficient.

3. Increase daily movement through exercise and frequent breaks from inactivity. Movement is what is needed to nourish the spine. Long periods of inactivity at your desk or on the couch deprive back muscles of oxygen and nutrients. Build up to 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise on most days of the week. When at your desk, take frequent stretch breaks every 15-20 minutes and get up and walk for a few minutes every 90 minutes.

4. Invest in a new mattress every 8-10 years. Since we spend approximately 1/3 of our life in bed, it makes sense that we should be sleeping on a mattress that supports a healthy back. Research is showing a medium-firm mattress is best to maintain the same natural spinal alignment you have when standing up. If your mattress is older than ten years, worn or squeaking, or just feeling uncomfortable, it's probably time for a new one.

5. If you spend hours at an office desk and/or in front of a computer, make sure you chair and set-up is ergonomically correct. To maintain proper posture, and avoid pain, uncross your legs and sit with your feet flat on the ground and your hips slightly higher than your knees. Your chair should offer low back support, and armrests to support your elbows. Make sure your computer screen is eye-level, facing straight ahead.

6. Lift properly. Always bend at the knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, keep the heavy object close to your body, and straighten using the strength in your legs, not your back.

7. Ladies, lighten your handbags, and give yourself a break from high heels. Hauling a heavy bag throws your body out of alignment, and puts extra stress on the neck, upper back and shoulders. Walking in high heels cause lower-back muscles to tighten. Your center of gravity shifts causing you to lean backward, and results in compression of the joints of the lower back. Either scenario alone is a recipe for pain, combined, a disaster waiting to happen.

With a little attention to your daily habits, and the other above tips, you should be able to prevent lower back pain from derailing your busy days.

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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