Yoga is one of the best ways to stretch and strengthen your body. The effects of a properly executed yoga routine can help with eve-rything from digestion and weight loss to mental health and pain.
But did you know that while yoga is an excellent way to stretch your back, it also strengthens the muscles in your back as well?
More specifically, the right yoga poses can strengthen the paraspinal muscles that help to bend the spine, the multifidus muscles that stabilize vertebrae, and the transverse abdominis in your abdomen.
These muscles help to support the weaker areas of your back and reduce the stress on your spine.
The key to strengthening and stretching these muscles is through proper form during poses. Proper form is especially important when it comes to poses focused on your back. The Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine reported that injuries such as sprains and strains have dramatically increased in those 65 and older due to poor form during yoga sessions.
So, if you are new to yoga, or the poses, make sure to learn from a professionally trained yoga instructor. They will not only be able to help you perfect the movement for the most favorable out-come but also will be there to help if an injury occurs.
Meditation is not just for Yogis. The practice of meditation can be used anywhere at any time to help relax the body.
Meditating has the ability to lower anxiety and stress, relax the body, and release endorphins, those remarkable chemicals that make us feel happy and joyful.
Mindfulness is one of the critical components of meditation and the easiest to practice multiple times a day. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on you, your body, and the current moment.
When you are in tune with what your body is feeling, you will be able to train how your mind perceives pain. This shift in percep-tion can increase your tolerance and lower the stress impact of pain on your body.
Mindfulness meditation is not something that has to be practiced for hours on end. You can practice mindfulness techniques for five to ten minutes, just about anywhere.
Spend ten minutes each morning in the quiet of your room, listen-ing to music on the bus, on a quick break at work even.
If the act of meditation is something you don’t enjoy, simply spend several minutes a day focusing on deep, saturating breaths.
During this time, clear your mind and let your lungs expand, and the air flow from you. You will become very in tune with your body with that one simple act.
3: Water Support
Water therapy is one of the best forms of exercise and therapeu-tic support for those with back problems.
The buoyancy of the water allows for extended movements with increased support for muscles and joints and less strain on the rest of the body.
While this form of exercise is excellent for those who struggle to maintain a land-based therapy due to restraint, it is suitable for any type of back pain.
Beyond the gentle resistance, pain tends to stiffen the body due to the mental expectation of pain. That expectation keeps you from fully completing the stretches and therapy.
Water therapy allows those pains to reside, and fuller movement helps to get the most out of treatment. That relaxation also re-duces the pressure on joints and can lead to a prolonged reduc-tion of pain.
But water does not have to be used just for exercise and therapy.
It can also be used as the primary source of relaxation for the back.
Using warm soaking pools creates a therapeutic effect on the muscles and joints.
Heat therapy is used on a plethora of injuries and is still one of the central effective pain remedies for back and necks.
Using heat on injured areas to reduce pain causes multiple pro-cesses to begin. The heat dilates blood vessels in the muscles that surround your lumbar spine.
The dilation allows for a more significant flow of nutrients and ox-ygen, which in turn heal any damaged tissue that may be there.
Heat also stimulates receptors in the skin. The effect on the sen-sory receptors decreases the transmission of pain signals to the brain and allows for relief.
The pain relief isn’t permanent but is very helpful when the inten-sity of discomfort is high. The comfort can sometimes be instan-taneous.
The other primary effect of heat therapy is the facilitation of stretching for the soft tissue that surrounds the spine. This also includes muscles and adhesions.
The stretching reduces stiffness and the threat of injury. Flexibility is ultimately increased, which plays a significant role in decreasing back pain.
Heat therapies are often very inexpensive to implement and can be administered almost anywhere.
When at home, a hot bath or shower can be used, and while out, portable heating pads can be activated. Often, just turning on your heated seats in the car can help with the pain.
Always make sure to administer heat therapy safely and watch the temperature to avoid burning of the skin.
5: Vitamin D3
Just like Calcium, Vitamin D is essential to the body. But what ex-actly does Vitamin D do?
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that assists the body in absorb-ing calcium and phosphorus. Getting enough Vitamin D helps to build and maintain strong bones.
Vitamin D is naturally made by the body when your skin is ex-posed to sunlight. Many different things can cause a deficiency, including limited exposure to sunlight, sunblock, protective cloth-ing, and age.
A recent peer-reviewed report from Pain Treatment Topics found that the administration of Vitamin D may provide relief for up to 95% of patients suffering from back pain.
Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, Ph.D., and author of the report stated, “our examination of the research, which included 22 clinical in-vestigations of patients with pain, found that those with chronic back pain almost always had inadequate levels of vitamin D.
When sufficient vitamin D supplementation was provided, their pain either vanished or was at least helped to a significant ex-tent.”
The study stated that inadequate vitamin D intake could result in a softening of bone surfaces, or osteomalacia, which causes pain.
The lower back is a focal point for this pain. In one study of 360 back pain sufferers, 95% were found to be deficient in the vitamin.
As far as the dose of vitamin D that should be taken to help re-lieve the pain, it is recommended that up to 2000 IU or more be taken. The current recommended dose is only 600 IU. Make sure to check with your doctor for your personal recommended treat-ment and the safety of starting the supplement.
6: Anti-Inflammatory Diets
What we put into our bodies is just as important, and often more important, than what we treat the outside. A healthy diet doesn’t just help maintain a healthy weight, but it also affects the mind and the tolerance for pain.
Obesity can cause or exacerbate back issues by putting pressure and strain on joints and muscles.
The foods that are eaten, and how much, can prevent and even reverse a myriad of health conditions. This includes different types of back pains.
We discussed inflammation and its effect on back pain earlier in this report. One crucial way to eliminate the inflammation is through an anti-inflammatory diet.
Several studies have shown that the power of this diet can be just as effective at treating back pain as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.
The anti-inflammatory diet is not hard to implement, and you’ll be surprised how many foods you probably already eat within the di-et’s guidelines.
Here is a list of some of the main anti-inflammatory foods sug-gested for the diet:
• Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, beets, blueberries, and oranges
• Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
• Seeds like chia, pumpkin, and sunflower
• Leafy, green vegetables like spinach, collards, broccoli, and kale
• Nuts like almonds and walnuts
• Monosaturated healthy fats like avocado, canola oil, and ol-ive oil
But its not just about what you put in your body, but what you al-so avoid. Stay away from inflammation-promoting foods like fast food, processed foods, and high saturated fat and refined carbs.
If you focus on a clean and whole food diet, your body will thank you.
Everyone knows that our bodies need calcium to build strong bones, but what does calcium do for back pain?
Beyond being the key to strong teeth and bones, getting the right dose of calcium, paired with Vitamin D, can relieve the pain caused by conditions affecting the bone mass and strength.
The amount of calcium recommended varies depending on age, but the average mg for an adult should be between 1,000 and 2,000.
Most people should not take more than 2,000mg per day because too much calcium can cause heart problems and increase the risk of bone fractures.
Calcium can be taken orally through supplements but also can be consumed in everyday foods. Some of the best Calcium-rich foods are:
• Salmon and canned sardines
• Dairy, such as non-processed cheeses, milk, and plain yogurt
• Leafy, green vegetables like broccoli and kale
• Soybeans and tofu
Your physician can also prescribe you a calcium supplement or re-fer you to a dietician.
The dietician will be able to make more thorough nutritional rec-ommendations based on your diet, age, weight, and health condi-tion.