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Unlocking Back Pain - Keys to Improved Back Health

By Lauren Stone

According to the National Institutes of Health, the nuisance of back pain affects a whopping 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lifetime. Whether or not the pain is induced from sky-high heels or a post-athletic injury, more and more Americans are suffering, oftern unnecessarily. As some are just naturally plagued with poor genetics, the majority of back pain actually stems from sitting still. Sedentary lifestyles are becoming the “norm,” life-style speaking.

Which certainly makes sense; when you sit, especially for long periods of time, the back and spinal column become extremely constricted adding lots of stress to an already stressed area. Chief of physical therapy at Harvard University and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, Dr. Mary Ann Wilmarth quotes"When you’re seated, your spinal column has to hold 140 percent of your body weight. When you’re standing, this decreases to 100 percent. The extra stress when sitting can strain muscles and cause disc problems. Combined with prolonged poor posture – hunching over your computer for hours at a time, for example – you’re bound to feel some aches eventually.”

However, the good news lies within you; you have control over your pain, as you have control over sedentary lifestyle. Get up and move about. That is the key to elongating the spine, encouraging synovial fluid throughout the joints and ligaments of the body, and overall feeling great. The experts recommend walking or standing about every 30 minutes or so to feel relief. You do not need to jog for endless hours at a time to feel a stretch. Simply walking from your work station to the water fountain places your muscles in a different position, increases blood circulation and helps to diminish stress.

Dr. Wilmarth suggests choosing your seat “wisely” when the ability to avoid sitting for long hours is not available; “Make sure you have some support, such as a lumbar cushion, and hold good posture to maintain a neutral spine position,.”

Obviously the next fundamental key is to exercise regularly. Aim to sweat at least once a day, participating in strength training and cardiovascular exercises. She also suggest other forms of stretching to aid in back pain, such as yoga and pilates. Exercises like these that focus on strengthening the core also help to align the vertebrae of the back and prolong a healthy spine. Wilmarth suggests the ” Cat/Cow pose which allows you to arch your back from a tabletop position (on hands and knees), alterating between rounding your spine to the ceiling, then lifting your chest and hips. A child’s pose can also provide a low impact stretch. To strengthen your core muscles, consider the Triangle pose, which requires a pelvic tilt or the plank position which engages multiple muscle groups.”

In summary, your key to a healthy back and spine is movement.