Almost daily I hear my patients tell me they are sick and tired of back pain. Immobility causes weight gain, which makes the pain worse. Then comes depression, which zaps all motivation, and the cycle begins. Muscle spasms usually ensue, and eventually popping ibuprofen and tylenol doesn’t cut it.

Studies show that surgery helps around 50% of the time (depending on the cause). Degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and normal wear/tear will inevitably find most, if not all of us. So how do we cope?

  1. Ask your doctor or chiropractor for x-rays. Sometimes, bone spurs and microfractures from falls can be the culprit – things that must be treated with surgery or braces.
  2. Stop smoking. Cigarettes accelerate the degeneration of normal cartilage and padding in all joints.
  3. Clean up your diet. Foods that increase inflammation in the body contribute to autoimmune diseases that attack your joints.
  4. Strength training. You may be thinking, But my back hurts, how am I supposed to exercise? Your back and abdominal muscles support your entire frame. When one side becomes weak (most often your abs), it puts excessive pressure on the spine. Overtime, any excess belly weight will literally pull the vertebrae forward, called spondylolisthesis. This in turn puts unequal pressure on various muscles, triggering muscle spasms. Again, back to the cycle.
File:MR LWS Spondylolistesis Rueckenmarkskanal.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

5. Physical therapy and stretching. I cannot stress this last point enough. Yoga videos for back mobility can be found online and modified depending on your abilities. Many yoga videos performed sitting in a chair can provide excellent benefits longterm for spine mobility.

The day you stop moving is the day you’ll stop moving.

Danielle Kelvas, MD

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Chronic back pain: sick and tired

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