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9 Everyday Habits That Help Relieve Back Pain

These small, consistent habits add up to keep aches and pains at bay.

Original article published by RealSimple on October 2, 2023 on RealSimple.com

By Karen Asp, MA, CPT, VLCE

When it comes to relieving back pain, you might have heard the common advice to see a doctor, get X-rays, take ibuprofen, or totally change your lifestyle. While more serious measures, like a trip to see a specialist, surgery, or pain medication, may be necessary for managing back pain in some circumstances, it’s extremely important to consider the seemingly small habits that can keep back pain and discomfort at bay.

“As you implement small habits, collectively they add up for big improvements in back pain,” says Dallas Reynolds, PT, DPT, COMT, senior director of access management operations at ATI Physical Therapy in Bolingbrook, Ill.

We asked Reynolds and other spine experts for the top everyday habits to adopt to help manage, prevent, and relieve pain in your back.

01 | Start the day with a few minutes of light stretches.

Stretching is an excellent way to start your day. “After being relatively still all night, simple, gentle movement can promote blood flow and joint mobility,” says Rachel Tavel, PT, DPT, CSCS, doctor of physical therapy, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and director of content at Wellen. She adds that one reason people develop back pain is because they have limited mobility or weakness in their body.

Move your body gently and slowly—don’t force any extreme movements—and focus on lengthening your spine, elongating your body, and breathing so that your belly inflates and ribs expand fully. Try squeezing your shoulder blades back and together 10 times, do a cat-cow stretch on all fours, or try some easy hip mobility moves and stretches.

Don’t even want to leave the comfort of your bed? Here are some soothing yoga stretches you can do from bed.

02 | Slip into low-heeled shoes.

When it comes to choosing footwear, opt for comfort over style. Shoes with a heel over an inch can increase stress on your back and alter your gait and stance. “If you’re not wearing the proper footwear or your shoes are old and worn, this can create gait deviations in your walking pattern and place more stress on your joints, which can make back pain worse,” Reynolds says.

03 | Walk for 10 minutes.

Walking isn’t only good for your heart—it can also give your back some relief. “Chiropractors encourage those who struggle with back pain to find time to get a light walk in each day,” says Kevin Lees, DC, director of chiropractic operations at The Joint Chiropractic. “Walking helps release tension that can build in your back and lead to back pain.” Try, for instance, taking a 10-minute walk during your lunch break or in the evenings.

04 | Change positions.

Sitting for long periods has numerous negative consequences, including causing your back to ache. “As soon as you notice that you’re shifting or fidgeting in your chair, that’s a clear sign you need to get up,” Lees says. In general, take a stand-and-move break after at least every hour of sitting. But the important thing is the change, and standing the whole day isn’t necessarily better. So the same rules apply if you’re using a standing desk: Switch positions every 20 to 30 minutes.

05 | Breathe deeply.

You’ve heard over and over that breathing can help lower your stress and regulate your nervous system. Little did you know that it can also be a back-pain soother. “Breathing helps calm your nervous system which, in turn, reduces stress and tension in your body,” Tavel says. Whenever you have a spare minute in the day, turn your attention inward and deepen your breath five to 10 times. Here are some effective and simple deep breathing techniques to try:

06 | Build in regular stretch breaks.

Just as you started your day with stretching, you should also incorporate small bouts, maybe five to 10 minutes, of stretching throughout your day, especially if you’re on your feet for long periods or sitting at a desk for hours. Both of those activities can cause your leg muscles to tighten, which affects low back pain, Lees says. Focus on stretching your quadriceps and hamstrings when standing. When seated, do stretches like a figure four stretch where you sit with one foot on the floor, knee at a 90-degree angle, and cross the other foot over the opposite knee.

07 | Do strength training.

Think how much of your day you spend seated, immobile, or focused on things right in front of you. This can make it easy to round forward at the shoulders, back, and hips, which can make back pain worse. The best way to relieve that ache is to offset it by waking up and strengthening the muscles that have been “dormant” all day. “Strengthen the muscles that keep you upright and away from these positions,” Tavel says. That means focusing on your scapular retractor muscles (exercises that require pulling your shoulder blades together), back extensors (try face-down flutter kicks or Pilates swimmers) , and hip extensors (like the hamstrings and glutes; try glute bridges or donkey kicks).

08 | Combine ice and heat therapy.

Icing an area reduces sensitivity and inflammation, while heat helps relax the muscles and increase blood flow. How do you know whether to choose heat or ice? Fortunately, you don’t have to choose. “Many people have reported pain relief when using both,” Lees says. If you want to use them both, start with ice and then alternate. If you’re using them for warm up and recovery, try heat before movement and ice afterward. For both options, apply for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

09 | Shift your sleeping position.

While a mattress and pillow that meet your comfort needs is key to reducing aches and pains, so, too, is your sleeping position. Bad news for stomach sleepers: “If you sleep on your stomach, you’ll create more stress on your back,” Reynolds says. But whether you prefer sleeping on your side or back, make sure you slide a pillow between your knees, which “will place your spine in neutral position and reduce stress on the joints of your hips and back,” he adds.

About The Joint Chiropractic

The Joint Corp. revolutionized access to chiropractic care when it introduced its retail health care business model in 2010. Today, it is the nation’s largest operator, manager and franchisor of chiropractic clinics through The Joint Chiropractic network. The company is making quality care convenient and affordable, while eliminating the need for insurance, for millions of patients seeking pain relief and ongoing wellness. With 800+ locations nationwide and nearly 11 million patient visits annually, The Joint Chiropractic is a key leader in the chiropractic industry. Ranked number one on Forbes’ 2022 America’s Best Small Companies list, number three on Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list and consistently named to Franchise Times “Top 400+ Franchises” and Entrepreneur’s “Franchise 500®” lists, The Joint Chiropractic is an innovative force, where healthcare meets retail. For more information, visit www.thejoint.com.

Business Structure

The Joint Corp. is a franchisor of clinics and an operator of clinics in certain states. In Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, The Joint Corp. and its franchisees provide management services to affiliated professional chiropractic practices.

Media Contacts

The Joint Corp.
Margie Wojciechowski
[email protected]
Office: (480) 245-5960 x 210
 

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