How to take care of your back on a daily basis?
Published Feb 18, 2023 • By Candice Salomé
About 80% of the US population experience some form of back pain (also known as dorsalgia or lumbago) at one point in their lifetime. It is one of the main causes of medical appointments. Many people suffer from occasional back pain, especially those under the age of 65.
So how does back pain develop? What are its causes and symptoms? How can you take care of your back?
We explain it all in our article!
What is back pain?
Back pain affects both older and younger people. The most common type of back pain is low back pain (also known as lumbago). But there are several other types of back pain.
Sedentary lifestyle and stress are two common causes of back pain. Muscular tension, which can be aggravated by stress and anxiety, can lead to back problems. Osteoarthritis, herniated discs, osteoporosis or pregnancy can also be aggravating factors.
Back pain can be the result of various repeated actions or wrong movements. Some of the causes are:
- strenuous physical work (e.g. repeatedly carrying heavy loads),
- sudden awkward movements,
- incorrect posture,
- deformity of the spine.
What are the symptoms of back pain?
Back pain is divided into three types:
- Neck pain (upper back),
- Back pain (middle back, less common),
- Lumbar pain (lower back).
These pains are generally dull and penetrating and increase in movement, but also when coughing or laughing.
In the case of sciatic nerve pain (sciatic nerve neuralgia), the pain may radiate to the arms or legs. The muscles in the back become tense.
The cause and the type of back pain differ from person to person. It is important to know that certain occupational areas are known to be risk factors for work-related back pain, such as construction or health care, for example.
What are the possible complications of back pain?
Back pain is often mild and tends to disappear spontaneously. In 90% of cases, spontaneous recovery is observed within six weeks of the onset of symptoms.
However, more than 50% of patients experience a recurrence within a year.
Chronic back pain is defined as low back pain that lasts for more than 3 months despite treatment. Treatment may include physiotherapy to strengthen the back muscles and/or the use of pain medication or muscle relaxants. In some cases, hospitalization becomes necessary, in order to detect and treat the cause of the pain.
Low back pain that lasts longer than 3 months is rare and accounts for only 10% of cases. However, this condition affects all aspects of daily life and can lead to depression.
Lumbago is an acute form of low back pain that manifests itself as sudden and severe pain in the lower back. It can occur after a sudden movement or after carrying a heavy load. The pain can be so severe that movement becomes impossible. When a patient with lumbago sits down, he or she may have difficulty getting up and must walk several meters before he or she can stand straight. The muscles of the lower back are contracted, which increases the pain. Lumbago always requires medical attention.
Some back pain can also be caused by complications due to other conditions, for example: a compressed vertebra in the case of osteoporosis.
What can you do if you experience back pain?
Rest is necessary in case of back pain. However, complete immobility in the lying position is often harmful. It is important to maintain your muscle tone and to remain mobile.
At night, it is advisable to sleep on your side. The worst position to sleep in when in pain is on your stomach.
You can apply heat to painful areas (hot baths or hot water bottles) in order to relax the stiff and aching muscles.
Do not hesitate to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy will help the muscles to relax and calm the pain.
However, if you feel pain or tingling in an arm or leg during or after the treatment, urgent medical attention is required to determine the cause.
How can you take care of your back on a daily basis?
Back pain is considered to be the "disease of the century". However, it is possible to prevent it by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Stretch your back!
Taking care of your back starts in the morning when your body is still numb from a long night's sleep. It is therefore recommended to stretch your back when you get out of bed!
Standing up, put your hands together and reach up to the sky as high as you can, as if you wanted to touch the ceiling. Be careful not to arch your back.
Do not hurt yourself, stretching should not be painful.
The stronger your back is, the less pain you will experience. Physical activities such as yoga, swimming, gymnastics or weight training will benefit you. These exercises help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and thus relieve your spine.
Choose the right position to sleep in!
Sleeping on your stomach is not good. This position accentuates the arching of the lumbar region and forces you to turn your head to the side, which can cause neck pain.
The ideal position is to sleep on your back, as this will best protect your spine. However, this may not be suitable for snorers or people with sleep apnea.
In this case, sleep on your side. This position makes your spine lighter and prevents acid reflux.
Have the right posture!
Taking care of your back starts with the good posture.
When seated, the best position is one that requires constant effort: straighten up and uncross your legs. The buttocks should be at the bottom of the chair, the knees and legs should be at right angles to each other, and the feet should be flat on the floor. Your back should be against the back of the chair.