If you are facing back pain, it might be because of excess weight. Back pain can be caused by weight gain as well as a variety of things, including weak abdominals, tight leg muscles, and poor posture. By design, the spine is made to carry the body’s weight; however, when excess weight is carried, the spine is forced to support the extra weight. This, in turn, puts tremendous stress on your back. Unfortunately, nearly 80% of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their life. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to a physician’s office, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections.
According to the National Institutes of Health, in a 3-month period about one in four adults experience at least one day of the spine-tingling effects of back pain. As for individuals with obesity, research shows these individuals are more likely to have lower back pain, as are people who smoke. The good news is back pain can be banished, by simply making a few lifestyle changes. For a healthier back, try:
- Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight
- Stretching more often (i.e., while at work, before and after working out, and whenever your muscles feel tense). Remember you can find several stretching exercises on our Signature Patient Website!
- Wearing comfortable shoes
- Adjusting your chair and computer to a comfortable height
- Lifting objects with your legs, not your back
Stretch Alert! The following stretches are specifically developed to help relieve back pain:
- Begin by laying face up on the floor with both knees into your chest and your
arms extended out toward the sides. Exhale and let your legs fall toward the right
side of your body as you look over your left shoulder. Hold for several breaths and
repeat on the other side.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width and knees
hip-width apart. Exhale and shift your weight back over your heels, reaching your
arms forward and allowing your head and neck to relax. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds
while breathing deeply.
Knees to Chest
- Begin by laying on your back, with your legs bent and your knees pulled into your
chest. Wrap your arms around the backs of your thighs and gently pull your legs
in closer toward your body. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds while breathing deeply.
Sit and Reach
- Begin while seated on the edge of a stable chair. Loop a strap around the balls
of your feet and hold an end of the strap in each hand. Extend your feet straight
out in front of you, with your heels on the floor and your feet flexed back toward
you. Inhale and sit tall on the chair with your abdominals pulling in and your
shoulders relaxing back and down away from your ears. Exhale and hinge from
the hips to lean forward. Lead with your chest to keep the spine neutral and
to prevent rounding the back.
- Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge from the hips and
bring hands down toward your toes. Ensure that you are hinging from the hips
and not just rounding the upper back. You should feel a stretch in the back of your
legs. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat as desired.
- Begin while seated on the edge of a chair. Cross one leg over the other, with your
ankle resting on the knee of the opposite leg. Gently press down on the inside of
the knee and slowly lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in your hips.
- Begin by laying on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Exhale and engage the abdominals, slightly tilting the pelvis backwards. You
should feel the lower back gently softening against the floor. Inhale and release
back to a neutral position. Repeat as desired.
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees
directly under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back and look up toward the
ceiling. Exhale as you round your back and look toward your knees. Move slowly
back and forth between these two positions. Repeat as desired.