Back pain affects nearly every American. It’s estimated that 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. In addition, low back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in healthcare costs each year. There are very real reasons to focus on maintaining a healthy back – from being able to bend and walk to saving money on healthcare.
Your back is actually a very complex spinal column made up of discs, muscles, joints, bones and nerves. Its purpose is to protect the spinal column of nerves and to support the head and neck. The lower back bears most of the weight and therefore is especially susceptible to injury.
How the back in constructed:
- 33 bones, called vertebrae bones, are stacked to make up the spinal column
- Between each vertebra is a spongy pad call an intervertebral disk that acts as a shock absorber
- Ligaments and tendons connect the spinal column to the muscles of the back to keep it in place
- The center nerve of the spinal cord runs from the base of the skull to the lower back
- Smaller nerves extend from the center and run between each vertebrae
The back is a very complex structure that requires good care through good posture, solid shoes, good nutrition, and exercise. Unfortunately, aging can adversely impact the back in many ways; through diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, degeneration of discs, dislocation of vertebrae, and other conditions. It is possible to guard against this damage and there are ways to ensure that your back remains as healthy and as strong as possible.
How to ensure your back remains as health and strong as possible
1. Practice good sitting posture
Don’t hunch your back or lean forward while sitting. Sit straight in the chair with your feet on the floor. If you sit for long periods of time, get up and walk around regularly. While sitting, gently stretch your neck side to side, to the front and back every half hour.
2. Sleep on your side
Sleeping on your side allows the back to remain in its natural curve while sleeping on your back or your stomach puts pressure on the neck, shoulders and lower back. When you sleep, try putting a pillow between your legs to remove pressure on the lower back. Then tuck your legs up slightly toward your chest.
3. Pillows and mattresses
These are very personal choices. Choose the ones that make it most comfortable for you to sleep. It is recommended that mattresses be replaced every five to seven years.
4. Move and exercise
The more you move, the healthier and stronger your back will be. As appropriate, walk each day, take the stairs, swim, stretch, or lift light weights. The back enjoys low impact exercise and will thank you for it with stronger, healthier muscles.
5. Don’t smoke or overeat
Smoking is bad for every part of the body and that includes the back. It can reduce blood flow and weaken the bones. Overeating that leads to overweight and obesity puts great pressure on the bones, muscles and tendons of the back and can lead to aches, pains, and back damage.
6. Beware of heavy bags
Don’t overload bags that sit on your shoulders and back. Make sure that family members do not carry heavy backpacks. The weight in a backpack should not be more than 20 percent of body weight.
7. Wear the right shoes
While many people want to wear decorative high heels, it is important to wear shoes that can support the weight of the back properly. For example, the shoe should fit snugly around the back of the heel and should not slip when walking. This will help the foot to remain in place without rolling in or out, and will support the back.
When you protect the health of your back it will support you in all your daily activities. Caring for it properly will produce dividends that will allow you to walk, garden, swim, and enjoy life without aches and pain.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.