Do you have a “bad back”? Well if it’s a Yes then More likely, you just have bad habits. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems—experts say it affects about 80 to 90 percent of Humans at some point—but also one of the easiest to avoid.
The pain is usually due to a muscle spasm, which can be set off by all kinds of things: Constant strain from poor posture, a sudden bout of repetitive motion such as shoveling snow, chronic inflammation, or a single twisting move at just the wrong angle. Also the muscle contracts but it doesn’t release, and those muscle fibers lock up, like if you lace the fingers of your hands together. That constant tension can lead to soreness.
While injuries generally heal with rest in a couple days, damage to your disks or the nerves that radiate from your spinal column can require surgery. What’s the difference? The pain might be severe, and it can radiate down your leg. Another warning sign: You seem to pull the same back muscles often, which might indicate a problem with your vertebrae is pinching the nerves that communicate with those muscles. If it doesn’t improve in a few days, head to the doctor.
Before you get to that point, here’s how to keep your back in shape and pain-free.
1. Stretch before you exercise. Don’t neglect your back as part of your warmup. Stretch out your lumbar region by lying on your back and pulling one knee to your chest and holding it for 5 to 10 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Relax for 10 seconds, then repeat the cycle.
2. Loosen tight muscles. Using a foam roller can work out muscle kinks before they cause more problems. (You can buy one for about $20; it’s one of the best purchases you’ll ever make.) Set the roller lengthwise on the floor and use your body weight to massage your upper back, lower back, hamstrings, and hip flexors. (Sports trainers all over the country are encouraging their athletes to foam roll.)
3. Take up yoga. You only need to go once a week. When 228 people with chronic lower back pain practiced a 75-minute yoga routine weekly for three months, they saw a 50 percent improvement in their pain compared to merely following a pain relief book.
4. Treat with cold and heat. First, apply an ice pack for five minutes, then take it off for five minutes. Repeat for up to half an hour. The cycle of cooling tricks your body into increasing blood flow to the sore muscle, which promotes healing. The next day, you can use a heating pad or a hot towel, which will help to relax any remaining tightness.
5. Get back on your feet. Sure, a cramped or pulled muscle needs time to recover. But it is possible to rest too much. Being completely inactive for anything more than 48 hours, and you start to see muscle atrophy, which makes you weaker and more prone to injury. If you’re still in pain after two days, see a doctor.