One in four South Africans suffer from chronic back pain. Long hours sitting, poor posture and poor lifestyle choices can put additional pressure on the spine.
Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to strengthen your core muscles and align your body correctly, in order to provide optimal support and protection for your spine.
Pamper your feet
Often feet are an overlooked cause of back pain. Dropped arches and either pronation or supination of the feet can lead to a range of muscle and joint problems. For example, if the soles of your feet tend to turn either inwards or outwards when you walk, it can put enormous pressure on your knees, hips and lower back.
An easy solution is to invest in orthotics, which you can slip into all your shoes. Modern orthotics are inexpensive, lightweight healthcare aids designed to compensate for problems in the posture or shape of your feet. They’re made from memory foam polymers such as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), and are typically soft, comfortable and malleable. You can even buy them online.
Many of us spend hours sitting, whether in front of a computer or till, or operating a machine. An incorrect sitting posture can cause chronic lower back pain or exacerbate an existing spinal problem.
You might not be able to avoid sitting for long periods as part of your job, but you can invest in an ergonomically designed chair from a reputable office chair manufacturer.
This type of chair features a sculpted backrest designed to provide optimal support for the S-shaped lumbar region of the spine. Seating is padded and angled slightly backwards to accommodate the hips, and drop-down edges alleviate pressure on the upper thighs. All the components are height and depth adjustable to suit different body shapes and sizes.
Choose the right mattress
During sleep, your body has a chance to heal itself. This includes the spine. However, it’s vital to sleep correctly and on a mattress that provides appropriate support.
The mattress you choose should be firm yet flexible. Beds that are too hard or too soft, or that have developed lumps or “dips” over time, can all put pressure on your spine.
Because all people are built differently, your best bet is to test out a mattress in the store. Lie flat on your back, curled up on your side and splayed out on your tummy for at least 15 minutes per position. If you feel rested, comfortable and light on your feet, you’ve found the ideal mattress for your body weight and shape.
A balanced diet for a balanced body
Eating healthily has all sorts of advantages for the human body. A balanced diet that incorporates plenty of calcium, vitamins, minerals and omega oils is great for healthy bone and joint maintenance. It’s also vital to maintain the appropriate body weight. Obesity is one of the root causes of acute back pain and can be managed with a proper dietary plan.
Poor nutrition has been linked to degenerative disc disease. Wear and tear of the connective tissue is particularly pronounced if there simply aren’t sufficient natural oils and dietary protein to keep the collagen fibres strong and supple.
All back rehabilitation programmes focus on exercises that target the abdominal and spinal muscle groups. The idea is to strengthen your core but without using weights. Stretching exercises, yoga, Pilates and swimming are all excellent forms of exercise that rely on body weight alone to build up strength and flexibility.