1. Avoid High Heels
Here’s why: wearing high heels will increase the pressure through your back by about 25x. If you wear a nice soft cushioned pair of shoes instead, your lower back would be experiencing 25x less pressure and force placed upon it! Imagine how much relief you would feel if you could take that type of stress off your lower back right now? Please understand that this is a cumulative effect. This pressure builds up from wearing the wrong footwear over a period of weeks and years and results in a weak and stiff back somewhere around the age of 40. If your feet are constantly sore consider asking your PT about an Orthotics consultation.
2. Avoid Sitting for More than 20 Minutes at a Time
There are many misconceptions that surround back pain. But this is generally considered a fact…you and I were not designed to sit (for long periods of time). It goes against every basic, fundamental rule of the way we originally evolved as humans. When you sit gravity exerts exponentially more pressure on your spine than when you stand erect. Because most of us slouch when we sit, the muscles in the spine designed to protect you are not able to contract properly. Those same muscles designed to maintain posture lose their strength and waste away over time. This is why extension based back exercises are part of a healthy back program! If you don’t know what those are, ask a PT!
3. Use Ice (Not Heat)
Ice is the best way to ease acute back pain. My tip, use ice whenever you’re feeling achy or painful, such as at the end of a very busy day. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes at a time- hourly.
As for when to use heat – my tip would be to apply a hot water bottle on a morning when your back is likely to be feeling more stiff than painful. Again, 10 minutes should do it.
4. Avoid Sitting Cross Legged
Your spine isn’t designed to twist or turn with a load. When you sit cross legged, or in a W, you’re doing really stretching the structures of your spine. Your joints are twisted, muscles are stretched, and in this position your spine is vulnerable to injury. Spending excess time sitting cross-legged will catch up to you – usually between age 40-60.
5. Sleep With A Pillow Between Your Knees
This one might be difficult at first, but if you persist it reduces the amount of “twisting” in your spinal joints. Remember I said in principle number 4 that it was important to avoid sitting cross-legged? Well it’s the same when you’re asleep. If you sleep on your side and use a pillow between your legs to keep your spine aligned, your spine will thank you for it. For your spine to fully recover after a long day’s work it needs to be in a neutral position for an extended period each day.
6. Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach (65+)
There isn’t a more effective, faster route to self-inflicted damage to your spine. Avoid this position in general if you are aged 65+, especially if your primary back pain flares up when you bend backward. Every part of your spine is twisted and in the wrong position and if you sleep like this you will certainly have back pain at some point when you wake up in the morning.
7. Change Your Mattress Every 5 Years
I get this question quite often, “Do I just need a new mattress or pillow?”. People want to know about their mattress and what type they should sleep on. This question is impossible to answer. What I can say is that if you haven’t changed your mattress in the last five years, and you have pain, then it’s about time that you did! Invest as much as you can in finding the most comfortable one that works for you. After all, if you’re going to spend a third of your life in it, might as well get the best one that you can. The key isn’t to finding a firm or soft mattress- it’s finding the one that works best for you and your spine.
8. Choose Sensible Footwear
Common painful footwear include high-heels, sandals, vibram trainers, and sometimes even Asics and Hoka’s. Why are they painful? Because they’re all affecting your feet in an “extreme” manner, either by offering too little, or too much support. My advice is to consult with your local PT and have a thorough gait assessment performed to determine which footwear is best for you.
9. Get Physical With Physical Therapy
There isn’t a faster way to END back pain than by going to see a Physical Therapist. Getting to see a hands-on specialist PT means you’re going to get very fast access to care that will soothe and relax those tight aching muscles, loosen and lubricate stiff, stuck and painful joints, and strengthen your body so that you can go back to doing the things that you love. You will leave your PT visits with your concerns eased and physical pain reduced, in less than of an hour of your time.
Combine all of the “tips” in this Special Report with a trip to see a hands on Orthopedic PT and you will see a dramatic drop in the back pain and stiffness you are currently suffering from.
Hint: The Big Hospital PT departments will not provide you with the hands on type of treatment that you need to end back pain as fast as you would hope. Disappointing, but true. If you don’t believe me- ask around!
1. Daily Lower Back Exercise Routines
Doing a ‘Daily Back Exercise Routine’ is closely linked to going to see a good PT – because you want to be sure that any exercises you are doing are right for you and will work. There are few ‘cookie cutter’ exercises for LBP.
If you can get into the routine of doing several simple stretches and strengthening exercises of your lower back muscles, you will benefit through your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond.
In the same way that you brush your teeth twice per day to keep them clean, you need to look at stretching and strengthening your back in a similar way. Particularly if you’re now in the 40-60 age bracket, when sarcopenia (age related muscle loss) typically sets in.
2. Avoid Carrying Your Back Pack Or Bag On One Arm, Or In One Hand
For this, you’re going to need to completely ‘ flip’ everything you’ve likely done for years when it comes to carrying bags. This one is a very common mistake. Carrying a workbag or even shopping bag over one shoulder means that the weight is not evenly distributed. The result is one side of your spine is under more pressure than the other. Guess what happens to the side of your body carrying the extra weight all these years? It is under more tension and now more likely to have caused a postural dysfunction. Moral is: switch sides!
3. Regular Yoga
This is the 5000 year old tradition that if you do regularly, can really transform your health. Yoga is point number one on my list of the most important things that anyone can do to prevent back pain. And in case you were wondering, Yoga is a series of stretches and exercises designed to improve muscle tone and control. Understand that it’s the latter (control) that is often missing from lower back muscles and the root cause of most back pain and stiffness.
By joining a class, or doing yoga exercises every day on your own at home, you’ll steadily improve your muscle control and LBP
4. Stretch At The Beginning And End Of Every Day
Stretching is another daily ritual that will transform your health. Along with Yoga, specific stretching is a must! Now that you’re in the 40-60 age bracket when you wake up your body is tighter and losing flexibility. Stretching helps slow this process down by lengthening your collagen tissue slowly over time through a mechanism called “muscle creep.” Stretch daily and reap the benefits.
5. Stay Hydrated
This is all too common at the office- forgetting to hydrate! Excessive coffee, tea, alcohol, and energy drinks will make you dehydrated as consequence of drinking too much of them. Being dehydrated can cause muscle aches and pains, fatigue and dizziness. It’s important that you keep your water intake up in an attempt to stave off any extra or unwanted tension in your lower back muscles.
Pro tip: Drink ten 8 ounce glasses of water throughout the day.
So, there you have it: 9 things (plus 5 big bonus tips) that you can do TODAY to improve your posture, general health, as well as Ease Your Back Pain. There are also more in-depth ways to end Back Pain than the principles I’ve given you here, but these fundamentals applied with rigor and discipline will make a huge difference to the quality of your life.
In the weeks ahead I’ll be sending you even more tips and advice on how to restore your active and healthy lifestyle and will share with you how Physical Therapy can make a huge difference in your life.
I hope this is the beginning of a great, long-term relationship where myself and my colleagues from the team at Concierge Physical Therapy become the source of leading edge health advice for you and make a real difference in your life.
Dedicated to Restoring Your Health,