How to prevent back pain

Editor’s Note: Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker”, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports and is the author of “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”


For many people, back pain can make it difficult to function in everyday life. It affects the way you move, feel and think, leaving you with no choice but to take some sort of action to relieve the pain.

But what if, instead of reacting, you took small daily steps to avoid back pain altogether?

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the everyday actions that contribute to back pain — or the steps they can take to avoid it. If you suffer from back pain, read on for six daily fixes.

Our bodies need adequate movement throughout the day to keep joints moving and blood circulating through our muscles to prevent stiffness that contributes to aches and pains. This is especially true for the vertebrae of the spine and the muscles of the back.

It sounds cliché, but if the weather is nice, don’t look for the parking spot closest to a store. don’t take the elevator when you have the choice of a flight of stairs or two. When you need to sit for long periods, set a timer to get up every hour and be active for just a few minutes.

More minutes of exercise add up to big health benefits over time. As well as promoting back health, active movement for just 11 minutes a day increases your lifespan, according to research. To add more movement to your day, consider starting a daily walk. You can also try this 10-minute bodyweight workout or this five-minute yoga routine.

When we overuse our dominant side, we create muscle patterns of weakness and tension that increase pain and the potential for injury—especially in our backs. Think about the actions you do repeatedly throughout the day that shift your weight to one side: opening doors, carrying a bag, holding a leash to walk your dog, etc.

In my career as a mobility coach in professional sports, I’ve noticed that many of the less injury-prone athletes were ambidextrous in some way—NHL or MLB players who play recreational golf left-handed but play their respective sports right-handed, for example.

Since most people are not naturally ambidextrous, I create movement programs for athletes that address and combat repetitive patterns on the dominant side to help restore alignment and reduce susceptibility to associated pain and injury.

You can apply the same approach to your everyday life by switching sides when carrying things, such as a computer bag or purse. using your opposite hand occasionally for basic activities such as opening doors. and not always sitting on the same side of the sofa.

Just as you switch sides to balance your body, you should also be aware of and correct imbalances in movements that are meant to be symmetrical. These include walking, running, cycling, swimming and the like. Our bodies are designed to perform these activities in a balanced, alternating and reciprocal pattern.

When we deviate from this symmetry by using one side more or keeping our weight shifted, we can overuse the back muscles on one side of our body and create stress on the spine leading to back pain and an increased chance of injury.

To learn more about how to identify and correct gait pattern imbalances, watch this video.

It may seem like the only thing you need to do to avoid falling is to catch yourself doing it and stop – but how you fix that fall matters.

Don’t just push your shoulders back to avoid slouching. Posture and breathing are closely related, so you should control your breathing as you sit up, taking a few long, deep breaths with lower rib movement to help drop your ribcage into a better position to support your posture and avoid unnecessary back pain.

Regular practice of the postural stabilization exercises in this video will help.

Psychological stress is a major risk factor for back pain, according to research. Because most mental stress is caused by focusing on the past or the future, active awareness of the present moment reduces stress.

A few minutes a day of mindfulness can go a long way in minimizing the effects of stress. In addition, mindfulness practices such as meditation, tai chi, and qigong have all been shown to be effective in reducing back pain.

Breathing is our deepest connection to the present moment, as it always is here and now. Taking “breathing breaks” throughout your day is an easy way to add a mindfulness practice to your routine. Try the exercise in this video to get started.

Every day, you do things to take care of yourself, like showering and brushing your teeth. If you’re someone who regularly suffers from back pain, you need to approach your back health as a responsibility, too, by creating a game plan of daily activities to exercise for back health.

This should include some of the tips listed above, but because back pain can have many causes, you’ll need to learn more about the cause of your pain to determine the best course of action for you. For example, if your pain is sciatic, you can manage it better by using some of the exercises in the video here.

If your back hurts at the end of the day, don’t just decide it was a “bad” day. Ask yourself if you have engaged in the activities that you know help you to avoid the stress and tension that cause you discomfort. Taking a proactive, daily approach to cultivating a healthy body is key to avoiding back pain.

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