Back pain is among the most common health conditions in the U.S. — afflicting up to 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives with such severity that they must seek a doctor’s care.
The treatment of choice for many doctors has traditionally been over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, which raise the risks for addiction, overdose, and life-threatening side effects. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates, for instance, that U.S. overdose deaths from narcotic painkillers and other opioid drugs have tripled since 1990 and now add up to about 40 every day.
But Dr. Kaliq Chang, says there’s a better way.
“There are natural and preventive remedies that I encourage that can be as effective as pain medication such as maintaining good a posture, sleep cycle, embracing a healthy diet regimen and proper weight,” says Chang, an interventional pain management specialist board-certified in anesthesiology at Atlantic Spine Center.
“Rates of back pain — experienced by 8 in 10 American adults regardless of age — only increase with advancing years because of the gradual breakdown of bone, joints, and muscles.”
“But all is not lost with the passage of time: Older adults can take many effective steps to build their back strength and prevent spine-related pain.”
Chang tells Newsmax Health that a wide variety of conditions which cause back pain, particularly in older Americans — arthritis, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoporosis — can be treated and prevented with non-drug natural alternatives in order to boost health and strengthen your back.
“Although the odds of spine problems certainly rise with age, that doesn’t mean older adults can’t build back strength and do their part to prevent some age-related spine conditions,” Chang says.
His strength-building and pain prevention tips include the following strategies.
Get regular exercise. Daily physical activity can not only ease muscle tension and inflammation, but strengthen back muscles — all of which combats pain. “This helps your core to be stronger and more supportive of your spinal column," Chang explains, "making injuries less likely."
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds, particularly around your middle, can shift your center of gravity and strain your lower back. “Staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight is the goal, and may help control back pain,” he says. For most Americans — two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese, according to the CDC — losing 5-10 percent of body weight can do miracles to ease back pain.
Practice good posture. If you work at a desk and spend long hours sitting, keep knees a little higher than your hips while seated, and look for chairs with a straight back or lower-back support. Also, when walking, keep your head up and your abdomen muscles pulled in. And try to stand up from your desk — or couch at home — and take a short walk every 30 minutes.
Don't smoke. Smoking isn't good for any health promotion efforts, and back health is no exception, Chang says. “Smoking lessens the flow of nutrients to spinal discs, so smokers are especially susceptible to back problems,” he adds.
Pick a better bag or briefcase. The best bag or briefcase to prevent back problems has a wide, adjustable strap that can reach over your head and be worn diagonally. Such messenger-style bags distribute the weight in the bag more evenly which helps to lessen the strain on shoulder and back muscles.
Lift carefully. Always lift heavy or bulky objects by bending at the knees, not at the waist. “Don't twist while lifting,” Chang advises, “and if it's possible, push rather than pull heavy objects.”
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