FAST SUMMARY - Essential Back Care - Dorling Kindersley

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• Maintain good posture. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, your chest open, and your spine aligned. Use lumbar support and take regular breaks to stand up and move around when sitting.

• Exercise regularly to build core and back strength. Good options include walking, swimming or yoga. Start slowly and avoid intense twisting motions. Stretching also helps improve flexibility and range of motion.

• Apply ice or heat when needed to relieve pain. Ice helps reduce inflammation while heat relaxes tense muscles. Do not overdo heat/cold and be very careful when mobility or sensation is limited.

• Use over-the-counter pain medication as directed to relieve acute discomfort. For severe or chronic pain, see your doctor about prescription medication options.

• Practice relaxation and stress relief. Try meditation, deep breathing, massage or acupuncture. Stress and tension often exacerbate back pain and discomfort.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra strain on your back and joints. Losing weight can significantly help reduce back problems and improve your mobility.

• See a doctor if pain is severe or does not start to improve within a few weeks. Diagnostic tests may be needed to determine the cause so you can get the appropriate treatment. Physical therapy, injections or even surgery may help for some conditions.

• Make lifestyle changes to better support back health and mobility. Improved sleep positioning, ergonomic work arrangements, appropriate rest periods, and bracing/support can all help reduce strain on your back. Discuss options with your doctor.

• Alternative therapies like chiropractic care, massage therapy, and acupuncture may relieve some. They are considered low risk but effectiveness varies from person to person. Try options you are comfortable with and discuss with your doctor.

• Follow up as recommended to monitor conditions and make necessary treatment changes. For many chronic back problems, ongoing self-care and management strategies are needed to minimize recurring pain and disability. Staying on top of your back health is critical.

• Apply a heating pad on a low setting for 10-15 minutes to relax tense back muscles. Be careful to avoid overheating or damage.

• Practice good ergonomics, like sitting in a supportive chair, keeping your back straight and supported, placing your feet flat on the floor, and keeping a computer screen at eye level. Get up and move around regularly. Prolonged sitting strains your back.

• Maintain good posture. Strengthen your core muscles. Stand up straight with shoulders back and chest open. Engage core muscles. Keep the natural curves of your spine. Correct yourself when slouching. Practice makes perfect.

• Get enough rest and reduce stress. Lack of sleep and high stress can worsen back pain. Unplug and recharge to break the pain cycle.

• Do gentle yoga, massage, or chiropractic with a professional's guidance. These techniques can relieve acute and chronic back pain when used correctly. Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true.

• See your doctor if the pain is severe or not improved in a week. You may need medication, physical therapy, or procedures to reduce inflammation, relieve pressure, or diagnose an underlying condition. Early treatment is best.

• Exercise: Start in a plank position with hands under shoulders, body straight, and core engaged. Shift forward and raise your chest slightly. Bend only at the waist and keep your lower back straight. Push into the floor, slide your hips back, and extend your spine and arms. Hold, then lower chest. Repeat 2-3 reps. Build up slowly. Keep back straight. Modify with knee push-ups or raise the torso if needed. Start holding briefly and build up time. Works chest, shoulders, and core. Be careful and stop if uncomfortable. Breathe steadily and focus on form.

• Common back conditions include ankylosing spondylitis, sciatica, vertebral fractures, piriformis syndrome, sacroiliac dysfunction, coccydynia, hypermobility syndrome, facet joint strain, whiplash, torticollis, scoliosis, and disk herniations. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

• Strengthening exercises, traction, stretching, and physical therapy can help many conditions. Proper footwear and manual traction may also provide relief. Treatments depend on the underlying condition. See a doctor for guidance on appropriate options.

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