One reader’s question leads to an answer everyone should be aware of.
Observer reader Diane recently asked if autumn is “back pain season.”
She had twisted to the side ever so slightly, but her resulting intense back pain required medical care. Her friends are also reporting pain this time of year.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
While they recuperate together, consider these facts about back pain.
Weather changes bring pain
Autumn might have some logical reasons for back pain to suddenly occur.
Weather changes in general are associated with increased pains, especially back discomfort. As temperatures change, so do shifts in humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed.
These changes have been associated closely with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, both contributors to back pain.
Weather conditions are unavoidable but you can help yourself with both heat and activity. Moist heat, which you can get from hot showers, hot packs and soaking in a hot tub with Epsom salts, can be a quick relief solution.
I like to run hot water over my hands when cold weather makes them stiff or achy. Heat therapy works by increasing circulation in the body.
Exercise increases circulation, too. It works on the entire body at once and brings health benefits on the side.
Back pain prevention plan
Check your mattress and pillows for proper support.
The spine should be kept straight while sleeping. Get someone else to check your alignment or to take a picture of your spine position while you are on your mattress, as you cannot see your alignment yourself. Get your friend or co-worker to take a picture of your posture when you are not expecting it. Poor posture is the primary cause of non-structural related back pain.
Making good posture easier
Strong muscles support the back, shoulder, neck and head, which makes holding proper posture easier. It takes strength to hold alignment for an entire day. How do you get that strength? Think whole-body and functional movement.
A blend of the right weightlifting exercises and aerobic activity builds overall strength. Stretching out before and after is key to functionality as held body congestion restricts movement necessary for good posture. Swimming is a great way to accomplish all these goals at one time. The heated pool at home or at the YMCA lets swimming be a year-round activity.
A yoga or pilates class that focuses on back health emphasizes flexibility, strength and balance through body core development. An experienced instructor can help you on this journey with certain modifications that work best for you.
Are you at risk?
Depression, anxiety and stress-related back pain is very common. Stress comes from the job, family matters or financial strain. Exercise can help with stress management while still strengthening the body. Yoga is especially good for stress reduction. If regular exercise does not help, see your doctor.
Older adults are at high risk for back pain, as are those with a sedentary lifestyle, struggling with obesity or just being overweight, and those in a strenuous physical work environment. Pregnant women are likely to get back pain as well.
Start prevention today
Be mindful to use proper form when bending, pushing, pulling or carrying something. Avoid standing or bending down for long periods. Lifting and twisting are the most common times for back pain to occur. Bend the knees into the movement and don’t try to lift more weight than you know you can handle.
Remember, fall brings weather changes that accentuate conditions for back pain to be more apparent. Stay active to maintain good back health so you can avoid pain like Diane’s when these seasonal changes come.