The good news about bad backs is that many problems are the result of habits that you can do something about. Here's how to find relief.
- 1: Trim that tummy Being overweight, especially around the middle, stresses your back muscles, causing pain and possible misalignment. Strengthening your stomach muscles with a roller or by performing stomach crunches will also protect your spine.
- 2: Reduce risks Avoid high heels and heavy shoulder bags, which throw the spine out of alignment. When lifting, never bend from the waist. Instead, squat beside the object, then use your thigh muscles to do the lifting, keeping your stomach muscles tight and your back straight. At home, vacuum in short stretches, use long-handled mops and garden tools and kneel to clean the bath or make beds. At work, choose a chair with good back support. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your legs uncrossed. If sitting all day, get up every 20 minutes or so to stretch.
- 3: Perfect your posture At all times, avoid rounding your back and slumping. Imagine that you are being lifted up by the top of your head when standing or walking. The Alexander Technique and Pilates can work wonders in re-educating you about how to stand upright and keep your pelvis in the correct position. Check www.naturaltherapypages.com.au for classes.
- 4: Sleep easy A firm supportive mattress is vital. Avoid too many pillows and lying on your stomach, as both cause neck pain. Lie on your side with your knees bent and a small pillow between them; or, lie on your back with a large pillow under your knees.
- 5: Try an alternative Chiropractors believe normal functioning of the spine is essential for the health of the whole body. To find a chiropractor near you, freecall 1800 075 003, or visit www.chiropractors.asn.au. Acupuncture is another option worth investigating for back pain. To find a qualified practitioner, visit www.atms.com.au.
- 6: Warm and soothe Ask your chemist for a massage balm that contains capsaicin (the substance that makes chillies hot). This creates warmth, which eases muscular spasms and improves blood flow. Arnica ointment also reduces pain.