Lower back pain is one of the most frequent problems treated by orthopedic surgeons. Four out of five adults will experience significant lower back pain sometime during their lives. After the common cold, problems caused by the lower back are the most frequent cause of lost workdays in adults under the age of 45. There are many causes for lower back pain, and many of those conditions need medical attention. However, therapeutic massage has generally been accepted as a non-invasive alternative. But massage alone will do little if the recipients do little to become proactive in good back health. These 7 steps are a minimum that each person should do to keep in top shape, and they can be remembered by the acronym MASSAGE.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
I was once told that if we all ate the right foods our health insurance cost would go down and the vitamin companies would go out of business. Unless you have a compromised metabolism, nature provides all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and energy required. At a minimum your diet should include a heavy veggie group with plenty of the dark green stuff, a protein group that is lean, and a starch group. Your body draws most of its operating energy from the starch group. However, unless you are in training mode your body will rarely need as much energy as you may think. A good rule of thumb for staying healthy is to eat a fist-sized amount of cooked food from the protein and starch groups and/or two fist-sized servings of raw veggies 3-6 times a day.
Drink wAter all day
I know that somewhere on this planet someone made a recommendation that we should drink 8 cups, or about 64 ounces, of water each day. This is a great idea but you can’t really walk around all day with a measuring cup! If you really want to know how much water to drink, check your urine color. If it is slightly yellow you are on track. If it’s gold you are not drinking enough water. Simple, right? The great thing about water is that, unlike food, if your body can’t use it, it just gets rid of it. Again, this works for most of the population. If your body is compromised by disease or illness this method may not be the best approach.
Stretching is one of those cheap yet effective ways to keep your back as well as the rest of your body limber and ready for action. If you do not stretch, your back muscles tend to get a little shorter and as such will start to cause pain. Like a rubber band, the muscles contract more forcefully and with greater efficiency if they are often pre-stretched. If you like the rubber band analogy, think of a rubber band on a cold day. If it is not stretched a few times before it is ready to work, it will more than likely snap when put under tension. Your back will do the same except that rather than snapping it will simply “go out” – and there goes your weekend!
Wear Shoes that fit well.
Your feet are your base of support whether you are walking or standing still, and everyone knows that a wider, flatter base is more stable than a narrow tilted one. So it is no wonder that we all have back problems after wearing shoes that are too narrow or with a tilt provided by high heels. As a general rule, shoes should provide a wide toe box for the toes to spread. A heel no taller than an inch and a half is also recommended. Granted most shoes that fit this model in the past were not the most fashionable, but shoe design has come a long way in the last 20 years. Chances are there are plenty of shoes out there that can easily accommodate this format. Furthermore, never shop for shoes early in the day. Your feet swell later in the afternoon, therefore proper fitting should occur after you have been on your feet for some time.
Use Proper Alignment when sleeping
Sleeping allows the body time to rest and repair itself after the action of the previous day. A minimum of 6-8 hours a day is best. If you have trouble sleeping for that long, try to stay in bed for at least 6-8 hours even if you are not sleeping because your body is making repairs. How you sleep is also quite important. If you sleep on your side, a pillow in between your legs will make a world of difference in the morning. Pillows should only be used to keep the head in alignment with the rest of the spine. Excessive fluffiness may cause long-term pain in your neck and will therefore affect the rest of your back.
Use Good posture
Like all muscle groups in the body, the back muscles get stronger when you work them. The erector spine group, like the name implies, keeps the spine erect. Sitting up straight is a sure way to keep your spine erect until you decide it’s time to depart this earth. If you have not sat up straight for some time, start sitting up consciously for about five minutes at a time. Then start adding another minute on to this each week and before long you will find that sitting up straight will be no more complicated than taking walk or reading a book.
Exercise no less than 3 times a weeks
Exercise is the cheapest form of medicine ever discovered. It costs nothing but time and commitment. It provides a host of benefits including better adaptation to stress, better sleep patterns, improved bone strength and skin tone, improved circulation, and all the other stuff that you already know that exercise does. However if you want to help keep the low back in tiptop shape, get strong abs. Not abs of steel – just strong abs. The abdominal muscles along with the back muscles provide a stable back for the trunk. If the abs are weak then the brunt of the work falls on the back, and like all other muscles they get fatigued from overwork. This is one of the reasons why mothers in the last few month of pregnancy have back pain. The growing child causes the abdominal muscle group to become ineffective at assisting the back in providing a stable base. In a nutshell abs exercised often along with other parts of the body will keep it healthy. As a note of caution, if your back has been compromised by injury please seek out the assistance of a doctor familiar with helping people with back pain through exercise. The worst thing you can do in most cases is to overmedicate and under-exercise your back because this combination will exacerbate the problem.