Sharecare Top 5: Ahh! My Aching Back!

A whopping 80% to 90% of the population experience back pain at some point in life, according to the American Chiropractic Association. And it’s not just adults – kids suffer, too. (Think about those heavy backpacks.) Instead of letting back pain cramp your style or force you to take unwanted vacation days, try these tips to send your back pain packing.

1. Do the right moves.
Everyone can benefit from exercise, but if you want to relieve – or prevent – back pain, a little sweat might be the best medicine. Back pain is more likely to return if your spine-supporting muscles in the back and stomach have become weak from injury or inactivity, or if you have tight hamstrings. Certain stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce pain by providing more balance around the spine and building strength and flexibility. Yoga, band workouts and low-impact activities such as water aerobics and water walking are also great options. But make sure you check with your doctor before trying any new form of exercise. Watch the video with physical therapist Peggy Brill to find out why stretching is so vital for back pain relief.

2. Improve your posture.
Whether you’re at work, driving in your car or on the couch watching TV, chances are you’re not sitting up straight. And that means bad news for your back. Slouching for long periods of time increases pressure on the disks and weakens your back muscles. The next time you sit, try making a conscious effort to maintain good posture, and look for opportunities to get up and move when you can. Don’t forget that poor standing posture can cause back pain, too.

3. Lift it right.
If you’ve ever tried picking up a heavy box only to end up stuck on the couch for the rest of the weekend, then you understand just how dangerous lifting with bad technique can be for your back. It’s actually one of the top causes of back pain because it puts excess force on the discs and other structures of the spine. Instead of channeling Hulk Hogan, take a reality check on how much weight you can comfortably carry. Here are more dos and don’ts to remember.

4. Shed extra pounds.
The back-saving benefits of a flat belly and trim hips go beyond easing muscle pain. Body fat is a demolition derby for your backbone’s discs. Staying slim keeps the gel-filled cushions that act as your spine’s shock absorbers out of harm’s way. Extra pounds also increase the load on your spine, taxing your muscles and dumping pressure on the soft tissue around your vertebrae. Visit our Weight Loss Center to learn expert tips and tricks to drop pounds and keep them off.

5. Get a grip on stress.
Stress doesn’t cause back pain on its own, but it can create muscle tension in your neck and back, which can lead to stiffness and soreness. The good news: You don’t have to let stress get the best of you or your back. Getting adequate sleep, exercising and eating a nutrient-rich diet all boost the body’s stress coping abilities. You can also try practicing stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery. Find out the top cities where residents have the least stress.