A combination of high-calorie diets, inactive lifestyles and increasing hours in front of the desk or computer have caused more and more Americans to gain weight, putting them at risk for chronic health problems, such as back pain and arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation book, All You Need to Know About Back Pain: Beat Pain, Increase Your Mobility, Know Your Options, provides timely, detailed information about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, especially people with back problems. The following highlights some quick and easy lifestyle tips for back pain sufferers at any fitness level:

  • Eat a balanced diet – Make sure it’s full of vitamins and minerals, and cut down on the fat.
  • Stand (and sit) up straight – Don’t slouch! Stand with weight distributed equally on both feet, and tighten those stomach muscles – even when sitting.
  • See a doctor – Your back pain could be caused by arthritis, and the earlier arthritis is diagnosed, the more steps can be taken to reduce disability in the future.
  • Don’t smoke – Recent research shows an increased prevalence of back pain among smokers.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – Get a good mattress and don’t sleep on your stomach.
  • Don’t stress out – Keep a stress journal and practice relaxation techniques; seek counseling if necessary.

Most Importantly

Exercise- A regular and varied exercise program can ease back pain and stiffness, strengthen muscle and bone, burn calories and improve flexibility. Exercise also results in increased energy, improved sleep and an overall feeling of well being. Following are some pointers important for a back-healthy exercise regimen:

A well-rounded exercise program should include:

  • Range of motion exercises – Keep the body flexible by bending, stretching or swaying.
  • Strengthening exercises – Build the muscles that support the spine and other structures, such as the abdomen. Lift free weights or take a weight training class.
  • Aerobic or endurance exercise – Use large muscles to increase heart rate and strengthen heart and lungs. Dancing, walking, swimming and use of various exercise machines are examples of aerobic exercise.
  • Speak to a healthcare provider or Physical Therapist if pain interferes with exercise. He or she can recommend an appropriate regimen. Start slowly, set small goals and build from there.
  • High impact exercises, like jogging, football, snow skiing or in-line skating can exacerbate back pain and should be avoided unless approved by a healthcare provider.

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