Prevention: The best treatment for back pain
An estimated 65 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain, and it is one of the top reasons for doctor visits. Back pain has many causes, including bad posture, excessive weight, poor workstation setup, lack of exercise and limited flexibility. Fortunately, many of them are preventable and treatable.
Stretching, using good body mechanics at work and strengthening core muscles can help prevent back pain.
Depending on the cause, the pain can occur in different areas of the back and inflict different types and degrees of pain. “Some patients experience an occasional dull pain, while others suffer constant agonizing pain that makes even the simplest movements difficult,” says Natalie Nevins, DO, an osteopathic physician from Hollywood, California. “Either way, back pain can prohibit people from completing their normal daily activities.”
To reduce the risk of back pain, it’s important to identify its cause. Once the cause is determined, lifestyle or environmental changes can be made to prevent or eliminate back pain.
Tips to lower your risk of back pain
Dr. Nevins offers several recommendations for preventing or lowering your risk of back pain:
- Listen to your body! Don’t push through pain during any exercises or activities.
- Set up your work and home office ergonomically. Use a small lumbar support at your waist level when sitting, feet flat on the floor with the knees at a 90-degree angle. The middle of the computer monitor should be at eye level and the keyboard just above your lap with the arms at 90 degrees or a little lower.
- Get up and move. Do not sit for more than one hour at a time. Take one minute each hour to stretch a different part of your body.
- Use good body mechanics when lifting or moving objects. Avoid bending over at the waist to pick things up; use your legs—never your back.
- If you have to perform heavy manual labor, take frequent breaks, and stretch throughout the day.
- Don’t be a weekend warrior. Take time to stretch every day in preparation for your favorite weekend sports.
- A tight neck and hamstrings also put unneeded pressure on the back. Make sure to stretch all areas of the body.
- Strong core muscles help support your back. Simple balance exercises such as standing on one leg for one to two minutes will work your abdominal muscles without the need for sit-ups.
- If you are re-starting an exercise routine, start low and slow. See how your body adapts before increasing time or intensity.
If taking preventive measures does not prevent back pain, or an existing condition worsens, a visit to the physician’s office is necessary.
Another treatment option: Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)
“DOs offer another form of treatment called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT),” explains Dr. Nevins. “OMT is a hands-on treatment where DOs use their hands to examine the back and other parts of the body such as joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, for pain and restriction during motion that could signal an injury or impaired function.” DOs use OMT to help relieve back pain.