Suffer from chronic back pain? You’re not alone: Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans, and we spend about $600 billion a year in treatment and lost productivity costs, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. Back pain is high on the list of what ails us—in fact, the American Chiropractic Association estimates that 31 million Americans suffer from back pain at any given time
Back pain interferes with our daily lives and can rob us of the joy of living. But the good news is that you can reduce many types of back pain by taking proper care of your spine and making some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine.
Improve Your Posture
If you spend the majority of your day sitting at a desk, it’s vital that you maintain good posture and have a supportive chair. Get an ergonomic chair that supports your spine and facilitates the proper way to sit. When standing or walking, keep your chest and back upright and your shoulders back. You can avoid a number of spinal abnormalities and degenerative conditions just by maintaining proper spine positioning. And the benefits may not end at your back—researchers at San Francisco State University recently identified a link between poor posture and depression.
Exercise for Better Strength and Flexibility
Exercise can be a double-edged sword when it comes to spine health: On the one hand, regular workouts strengthen the muscles supporting your spine. But excessive exercise—particularly involving strength training that overloads the back—can actually cause injuries that erode spinal health and directly cause new problems.
So although exercise can be beneficial to the spine, it only benefits the back when you stay within your limits. Laser Spine Institute features a range of articles on finding the right exercises for your back and maintaining proper form to avoid injury. Exercises like aerobics, Pilates and yoga improve core back strength as well as flexibility in the spine, and strength training strengthens the muscles and structures supporting the spine. But keep in mind that simply going for a walk every day is also a great way to promote spinal health.
Infuse Your Diet With These Nutrients
In addition to following an anti-inflammatory diet, consider taking supplements of certain nutrients shown to support spine health. Both B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce pain sensations in the nerves around your spine. B vitamins can be found in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, while omega-3s are commonly found in fish and certain grains. Vitamin D supports spinal column strength as well. Some foods (like milk) come fortified with vitamin D, but you can also find it as a supplement.
Adjust Your Sleep Position
Since you can’t control how your body and spine are positioned during sleep, make sure they are at least well-supported. Invest in a firm mattress and pillow that offers ideal comfort and support. Try to sleep on your side or back, since these positions offer better spinal support than sleeping on your stomach.