According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke(NINDS), about 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Some people also experience upper back pain or neck pain.
If you’re one of them, consider these natural methods to help alleviate your discomfort. A few simple lifestyle changes may be all you need. Learn how healthier habits can improve your back health and relieve your pain.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that slouching in front of your television, computer screen, or video game console is bad for your back. The spinal consequences can start early. While more research is needed, scientists in the journal Ergonomics have found several studies linking video games to higher risk of back pain among children.
Make an effort to limit the time that you, and your kids, spend gaming. Practice good posture while you play and take regular breaks. Most importantly, swap out some of your screen time for more physically active activities.
Video games and television aren’t the only things that have Americans stuck to screens. Many people spend long days working at desks, hunched over computers. If you don’t practice proper ergonomics at work, your back, neck and shoulders may suffer.
To improve your workstation, position your computer monitor at eye level, at least 20 inches away from your face. Invest in a comfortable chair with armrests and good lower back support. Keep your head and neck in line with your torso, your shoulders relaxed. While you work, keep elbows close to your body, and your forearms and wrists parallel to the floor.
Extra weight means extra stress on your body. If you carry excess fat in your belly or breast region, the strain on your back is likely to be worse.
Take steps to lose excess weight. For most people, that means exercising more and cutting calories from your diet. Your doctor can help you develop a safe and sustainable eating plan and fitness routine.
When you’re in pain, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But regular physical activity is essential to good back health. In a study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Norwegian researchers followed 30,000 men and women over an 11-year period. They found evidence that moderate exercise can help reduce back pain.
Consider walking at a brisk pace, swimming laps, or participating in yoga or tai chi several times a week. These low-impact activities can help you lose weight and boost your fitness level, and provide strength and flexibility to your back.
Proper spine alignment is important, not just when you’re watching TV or sitting at your desk. The position you sleep in can also affect your back health.
Try to sleep on your side, in a relaxed fetal position with your knees bent. Place a small pillow under your neck. This will keep your spine in alignment. Another pillow between your legs can stop your top leg from sliding forward and twisting your lower back as you sleep.
Many over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease back pain. But you may want to ask your doctor about herbal remedies as well.
For example, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It may help reduce inflammation associated with back pain, especially helpful after strenuous activities. Consider simmering fresh ginger root slices in hot water for about 30 minutes to prepare a spicy but soothing cup of tea. Capsaicin has also shown some promise for reducing pain. It’s the active ingredient in chili peppers. You can find it in both topical cream and oral supplement forms.
Your mind is a powerful thing. Researchers from the University of Manchester have found that people who meditate regularly find pain “less unpleasant.” These results are promising for anyone who lives with chronic pain, including back pain.
If that’s not enough incentive, meditation has also been linked to other mental and physical health benefits. For example, the Mayo Clinic suggests it can help you manage anxiety, sleep problems, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
Fine tune your small daily movements in ways that protect your back. For example:
- don’t carry too much weight in your purse, suitcase, or bag
- always wear your backpack on both shoulders, instead of by a single strap
- always bend at your knees when you’re picking up objects
It may also help to add some gentle stretching to your morning or evening routine. A few changes to your daily habits and lifestyle might make a world of different to your back.