Published on November 20th, 20130
Aching back? Here’s how you set it right
Backaches have a detrimental effect on our work and leisure hours. Treat the problem before it develops into something serious.
by Sharad Panjwani
A backache can make you miserable, rendering daily routines difficult to achieve and a constant reminder that something’s not right. But though back pain may slow you down, there’s no reason you can’t erase it from your life for ever.
Shruti Khopkar (31) was active before her wedding two years ago – she would exercise every day, be on the move even at work, run errands and get at least seven hours of sleep. “But I had to quit my job after the wedding, and soon, there was a lot of work at home. Within months, I developed a persistent backache that just would not go away.”
The answer came after two visits to a specialist. “My posture had changed because I was constantly at home, either cooking or tending to the home. I developed this habit of slouching in my couch and reading or watching TV. When I had been exercising with my trainer, he had ensured that my posture was perfect.” Shruti went back to functional training, and with proper workouts for her back and core, she does not feel an ache in her back any more.
Set it right
Backaches are rarely very serious, unless a slipped disc or strained spinal column is rendering you immobile. Very often, small corrections in postures and habits go a long way in alleviating back pain.
– Sleep well: Most people with backache complain of stiffness when they wake up in the morning. While a small amount of stiffness if expected after hours of rest, a pain in the back is unacceptable. Your mattress could be the culprit – either too soft to support your spine as you sleep, or too firm to let your muscles rest. If not your mattress, it could be a lingering problem that you may have ignored.
Get help: Flip your mattress to distribute your weight evenly over it. Also, do a simple stretching exercise when you wake up every morning. Some people experience back pain if they don’t sleep enough. If you can, take a couple of days off from work simply to rest your back. If the pain is acute, you will need medical help.
– Don’t sleep too much: However, those with back pain would do well to not rest too much in bed. Says Dr Rahul Shringare, orthopaedic surgeon, “Too much bed rest weakens the back further. You should engage yourself in moderate activity like walking, but not run or do gardening.”
Get help: Alternate your periods of rest with periods of activity. Avoid gymming or running that will strain your back. However, do light stretching so that your back gets exercise and does not ‘freeze’.
– Exercise: Though some people give themselves a backache by overdoing their exercise routines, it is exercise that can rescue them. However, the workout you do must be approved by a certified trainer and your doctor, if you’ve consulted one.
Get help: Walking keeps the spine and back in a neutral position, so it’s a good exercise. Yoga also helps alleviate backache. Try ‘sarpasan’ for a strong back – lie down on the floor with your palms placed under your shoulders. Slowly lift your back (without lifting your feet off the ground) keeping your elbows at not more than 60 degrees angle. Hold for three seconds, then release. Repeat laps of 10 and do two sets.
– Better posture: Slouching at the computer, suddenly bending to pick up an object off the floor, even coughing while bending over, can give you painful back spasms that take days to heal. Though you will do damage even with a rigid back at all times, you must remember to sit up straight at work or at home, and to avoid putting pressure on the lower back, support your lumbar with a firm pillow when you sit.
Get help: Always bend your knees when you bend over. Keeping the knees locked and your legs straight when bending puts tremendous pressure on your spine. Every once in a while, get up from your seat and stretch, take a short walk around the office. Keep your back as straight as you can without feeling pressure in the lumbar. Your shoulders must be aligned in a straight plane, instead of rounded inwards.
– Avoid massaging a sore back: Wrong exercise or a blunt trauma can bruise and inflame your back muscles, causing swelling. Most people wrongly assume that massage creams and oils are to be applied on swollen, painful areas of the body – these are only to be used on aching parts that are not inflamed or swollen.
Get help: If your back is swollen, apply an ice pack till the swelling goes down. After this, apply heat pads to repair the tender muscles in the painful area. Do not rub with a massage cream, it will only tear the tender muscles and tissue.
– Strengthen your abs: It seems strange, but it is true that if your ab core is weak, it will strain your back further. People with strong abs are found to experience less back pain than others.
Get help: Strong abs does not mean a six-pack, but a core that can easily do crunches or flips without spasms. Get a fitness trainer to prescribe exercises for stronger abdominal muscles. Also consider exercises for hamstrings, chest and calves.
– See a specialist: A back pain cannot be treated simply with painkillers and a bit of moderate exercise. If your problem is long-term, you might need to see a specialist.
Get help: Ask your specialist for exercises to do at home or work, and for suggested lifestyle changes. Follow his/her advice to the letter.
(Pictures courtesy www.topnews.in, www.vitality-centre.com, www.apollolife.com)