Most men have their first tryst with backache between the ages of 30 and 45, about the same time they start getting grey hair. According to medical studies, at least 70 percent of men will have back aches at some point in their lives. Of those, 14 percent will have severe pain that lasts for at least two weeks, and up to 7 per cent will have chronic pain that can last for more than six months.
Muscle strain has been identified as the most common cause of back pain in several medical studies. As men get older, they get less and less exercise. The amount of physical activity reduces to a good extent. Consequently, the muscles in the abdomen and back that support the spine deteriorate and get out of shape. What happens after this is that you discover that you are unable to perform tasks with ease (as you used to do previously) and experience pain in the abdomen area. Improper posture is also one of the major reasons for back ache.
Often back pain can be easily treated without surgery or drugs. But, if during the course of time, the pain intensifies and spreads to other parts of the body, it means things have are getting out of hand and it’s definitely time to consult a specialist.
Here are some tips for preventing and treating back pain:
Early Morning Stretch
You can even start off your day by stretching while you still lie in your bed after waking up. Remember that there has been very little movement in your body for the last eight hours or so (time when you were asleep). It wouldn’t be a good idea to jump out of the bed the moment you open your eyes and kick-start the workout abruptly. This would be asking for a sore back.
Walking Away from Back Ache
Walking conditions your entire body and is therefore good for the back as well. It strengthens the postural muscles of the buttocks, legs, back and abdomen. A brisk stroll may also help your body release ‘endorphins’, hormones that subdue pain. Swimming, bicycling and running are also advisable.
Taking that Much-needed Break
If your job requires you to sit at your desk for an extended time or if you’re travelling long-distance by a plane, train or a car, change position often and give your back a break it so deserves. Stand up and walk around every hour or so.
Kneel, Don’t Bend
Avoid bending over at the waist to pick up an object. This can create tension in the back and increases your risk of injury. Prefer kneeling down. Use long-handled tools and kneel on a cushion or knee pad to garden, vacuum or do other “low-level” activities.
A Good Posture
Maintaining good posture is one of the best ways to prevent back pain. Try this for improving your posture. Stand against a wall or sit in a dining room chair, making sure that your shoulders and buttocks touch the wall or your chair. Slip your arm into the space between your lower back and the wall or chair. If there is a point where your hand isn’t touching both your back and the wall or chair, tilt your hips so that the extra space is eliminated. Hold that position for a count of 20 while looking in the mirror to see what your posture looks like. Try to maintain posture for the rest of the day. Do this exercise once a day for three weeks to ensure good posture becomes a habit.
The mattress you sleep on should provide proper support, be level and not slump. Medium-firm mattress can provide better back support.
Chill-up Your Back
Applying ice to the back can help reduce pain and swelling. Wrap ice cubes in a pillowcase or a towel (never apply ice directly to the skin) and put it on the sore spot for 10 minutes each hour until the pain subsides.
Once the chill does it job (relieves swelling) – which it usually does within 48 hours, you can start using heat. Heat increases blood flow to the affected area, relaxes tissues and can improve your mobility. You can either apply a warm washcloth to the back for 5 to10 minutes every hour, or bathe/take shower with warm water.
Taking 1-2 aspirin or ibuprofen tablets every four to six hours can temporarily relieve pain and reduce swelling. But this is a makeshift treatment and not a proper therapy to treat backache in the long run. Besides, these drugs have their own side-effects as well. Do not develop a dependence on them and never exceed manufacturer’s prescribed dosage.
Do not hesitate from seeking medical advice if things start to worsen. Do not start playing the doctor yourself or let others around you do the same.