How to avoid back pain

How to avoid back pain: my advice

If you suffer from back pain, you are not alone. In our societies, back pain is one of the most common reasons for going to the doctor. Back pain can take various forms and have many causes. Some of us suffer from a dull, persistent ache in the lower back. Others will experience sharp, throbbing pain in the shoulder area. The origin of the pain might be a specific medical condition like arthritis or a herniated disc; or it might be unexplained, but recurrent and just as debilitating.

In all cases, the good news is that there are a few simple steps that you can take to relieve, reduce, prevent and eventually get rid of the pain completely.

I have listed them in order of importance and simplicity, in my opinion. These are steps that I took when I was suffering from lower back pain.

From doing Pilates to strengthen postural muscles to changing the way I slept, they helped immensely.

Step 1Go to the doctor’s to get a full medical check-up. My advice is to go to a specialised doctor, like an orthopaedic doctor or Orthopäde in Germany who will be able to examine you, assess the level of the pain, and prescribe an X-Ray or MRI if needed.

Step 2Start exercising. Whatever the doctor’s diagnosis and recommendation, and even if you are in a bit of pain, I believe that step 2 should be to start a gentle exercise programme to strengthen the abdominals and back muscles, or postural muscles. Take your pick: you could hire a personal trainer, a personal Pilates instructor, join a level 1 group Pilates class or a specialised gym like Kieser training in Germany. Advice #1: it is worth investing in this, if you really want to get rid of the pain and it is worth paying for personalised training. Advice #2: avoid doing yoga or high impact exercise at this point (like running or skipping, HIIT or power fitness classes). You can start that at a later stage, once you are stronger and pain-free.

Step 3 Invest in a nice, comfortable backpack and wear it properly, with both straps on. I know, this won’t please everyone, but it is one of the best ways to avoid tension in the back. Stop carrying your oversized bag on one shoulder, trust me, your back will be thankful for ever.

Step 4Become aware of your posture in every day life. Stand straight, sit straight, engage your abdominal muscles, push your shoulders back – start thinking about your posture and about the muscles you could be contracting to improve it. At your desk, adjust your chair so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and your knees are a bit higher than your hips while seated. You can also prop your feet up if needed.

Step 5Check your sleeping position, mattress and pillow. Talk to your doctor about the best way to sleep for your condition. Invest in a good, appropriate pillow and mattress. If you sleep on your side bring your knees up towards your chest. If you sleep on your back placing a pillow underneath your knees can help. Sleeping on your stomach can be really bad for your lower back, especially if your mattress is too soft, and it might worth getting used to another position.

Step 6Avoid wearing high heels. They can shift your centre or gravity and put pressure on your lower back. Avoid high heels especially if you have to walk fast and far.

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