IF YOU SUFFER from back pain, you are not alone. According to doctors it's one of the most common complaints, and according to employers it's one of the main reasons why people miss work. It's estimated that as many as 80 percent of American adults suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.
Some of the common causes of back pain include: herniated disks, stenosis (narrowing of the spine, nerve compression), scoliosis (curving of the spine), spondylitis (spinal arthritis), tumors, poor posture, and too much stress and strain.
Another common, though frequently ignored cause, is obesity, which make spines tote an extra unhealthy load.
To prevent, treat and even reverse back pain, first and foremost, stay fit. Even if you're overweight or out of shape, you can take charge of your spinal health with simple exercises that will strengthen, tone and ease up the back pain.
1. Stand up straight. That's right, follow Mom's advice. Maintaining good posture is, perhaps, the best way to prevent back pain and problems. Besides that, standing up straight will instantly make you look about 10 years younger.
Remember the old, imaginary string exercise: Pretend you're a puppet and when the imaginary string is pulled up, you straighten your spine, and your shoulders are rolled back in the proper position. And guess what - you can apply this same technique in a chair, instead of slumping over your computer.
2. Do the Superman. The Superman exercise is one of the simplest and easiest exercises to shape up your spine. Lie face down on the floor, stretch your arms out directly in front of you, press abdomen into floor, and simultaneously raise arms, chest, and legs, hold for a few seconds, and lower and repeat.
Ideally, perform 12 to 15 repetitions, for two to three sets.
3. Body band lat pull-down. Keep your upper back strengthened and toned with lat pull-downs. Lat pull-downs can be done with weights, body bands or even a rolled-up old towel. Sit in an armless chair or bench, or on a stability ball, grab a body band and pull it lengthwise with appropriate tension, slowly lower band to your sternum, while simultaneously squeezing your shoulder blades back and down. Once your elbows reach your waist, return to the starting position and repeat 12 to 15 repetitions, for two to three sets.
4. Classic cobra. This classic yoga pose strengthens all the muscles along the spine. Lie face down with legs extended and toes pointed; elbows are bent with palms and forehead on the floor. Next, squeeze buttocks together and press thighs, legs, and feet down into the floor; slowly lift head, elbows and chest, while simultaneously rolling the shoulders back and down.
Again, shoot for 12 to 15 repetitions for two to three sets.
5. Alternative back treatments. When I studied theater I was introduced to the Alexander Technique, which teaches you to reduce muscle overuse and regain control over your body's posture. I also was introduced to Rolfing at that time, which is a deep-tissue bodywork that restores and reshapes muscles to their proper position. With Rolfing, you may be pleasantly surprised, and also discover that you've grown an inch or two after treatment.
Also, I believe in the intelligence and power of the hands with acupressure. Similar to acupuncture (minus the needles), acupressure will stimulate pressure points with the fingers, to relieve pain, stress, improve circulation and restore health.
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