How to Maintain a Healthy Back
By Kelly Conklin
According to a recent report from CBS News, Back pain is one of the most common of human complaints and Eight out of ten Americans will experience debilitating back pain sometime in their lives. With those extreme statistics we had better start now taking care of our back and finding ways to alleviate even the smallest of back pain before it becomes a bigger problem!
Dr. Augustus White, author of Your Aching Back: A Doctor's Guide to Relief, explains that he believes the most common of back pain is due to a problem with the inter-vertebral discs, whether it's herniated or whether it's just worn and arthritic and associated with pain". White also went on to say that 90 percent of disc injuries may heal themselves after a few weeks, especially with physical therapy.
With proper care and attention to your back you can help alleviate and possibly prevent back pain. A healthy spine has three natural curves; in the neck region, the upper back region and the lower back / pelvic region. When your spine is in proper alignment your spinal column should appear completely vertical aligning your center of gravity with your head inline with your pelvic region. Common daily activities if not done properly can, over time, lead to back pain and possibly injury. Maintaining proper posture weather you are lifting, standing, sitting or sleeping is crucial for a healthy back.
A current article published by the MayoClinic explains how your usual sleep position can strain your back and contribute to the development of back pain. Weather you are a back sleeper, stomach sleeper or a side sleeper you may find that your back aches and you can not get in a comfortable sleeping position. The key to sleeping in a position which is most comfortable for you is in keeping your spine in proper alignment or the neutral position.
When you sleep on your side your legs and hips are aligned and flexed with your upper leg unsupported which causes your top knee to eventually fall forward to rest on the mattress. It is this rotation of the spine during side sleeping which may add to your back and hip pain. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees and thighs will help keep your spine in proper alignment while you sleep on your side. By keeping your top leg raised you may help to restore the natural alignment of your spine thereby reducing painful pressure on your hips, knees and joints.
According to The American Chiropractic Association, sleeping on your back puts approximately 50 pounds of pressure on your spine! This extra weight and pressure may cause pain in your lower back/ lumbar region while you sleep. One way to relive this pressure on your lumbar region is to raise your knees while you sleep by placing a support behind your knees. A leg wedge will help cut the pressure on your spine roughly in half! Better than a pillow, an orthopedic leg wedge is specifically designed to gradually lift your thighs and raise you knees to a healthy pain free position. A leg wedge may also help increase your circulation.
When you sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your head your spine is tilted upward from the pelvis causing pain and discomfort in your back. In order to put your spine in a healthy, neutral position you can place a small pillow under your upper thighs and sleep without a pillow or use a very flat pillow. By making these changes you will relive the pressure on your spine and help alleviate your back pain when sleeping on your stomach.
In addition to special wedges and cushions for your back and knees during sleep there are also special pillows for your head which support your head and neck keeping them in proper alignment while during sleep.
Since your standing and sitting position during the daytime contributes to your level of back pain at night it is important to be mindful of your posture throughout your day. If you are sitting in a chair most of your day then a proper seating cushion and lumbar support will help keep the tension off your back. Raising your feet to allow your knees to be slightly above or level with your hips while sitting will also help reduce stress and strain on your lower back. Remember, it is important to support all three natural back curves while sitting.
There are many exercises you can do to help strengthen your back. By working on your core and back muscles you will improve your balance and help prevent falling and injuring your back. Studies have shown that by stretching your back through yoga practice or Pilates may also help relieve back soreness. The good news is that a lot of back pain can be managed, reduced or even eliminated by supporting your back while sleeping and sitting, watching your posture during the day and strengthening your back through exercise!
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