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Best Ways to Beat and Prevent Back Pain

By DR. KEN HANSRAJ

According to recent studies, more and more Americans are being prescribed powerful narcotic drugs when they visit an emergency room for neck and back problems.

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There are times when a short-term prescription for a narcotic is appropriate, but many times the best choice includes a lifestyle evaluation and a long-term approach to wellness.

[Read More: Health is a Lifestyle]

As a spinal surgeon, I believe that spinal health is influenced heavily by one's inner and outer world and physical and emotional health. When treating patients, my approach is to consider whole-body wellness to reduce the need for painkillers and/or surgery. The simple lifestyle tips listed below can help alleviate and prevent back pain.

1. Think About Thinking
Backed by modern neuroscience, neuroplasticity is the theory that as we perform acts and as we think, new tracks and connections are laid down in the brain. In other words, the brain becomes "wired."

People should be careful not to allow certain thoughts into the brain for prolonged periods of time and be careful when choosing the activities in which they engage. Just as with purposeful and definitive thinking, negative thinking is wired into the neural pathways.

As a spinal surgeon, it's exciting to think that people may literally change the tracks that make up their brain, with particular influence on back and neck performance.

[Read More: 6 Ways to Get Yourself Motivated]

2. Practice Meditation
One 15- to 20-minute session a day can help the process of calming the body and mind while allowing a connection with the universe. Recent studies [2] show that meditation is associated with increased oxygenation of the brain, improvement in attention, emotional control, brain wiring, higher brain volume and better performance of heart, lungs, sexuality and hormonal profile, along with diminished pain and inflammation in the spine. [3]

3. Build Your Muscles
Stronger core muscles lead to better posture and protection of the spine. Weakening of the core muscles can also lead to balance problems, mainly because the innermost core muscle is next to the spine and supports it.

I recommend incorporating two or three core muscle-building sessions per week into your exercise routine. This will strengthen your spinal muscles today and protect your spinal flexibility and balance as you age.

[Read More: How Bad Sleep Makes You Tired, Old and Fat]

4. Sleep 7 to 8 Hours Per Night
Sleep is an extremely important factor in preventing and alleviating back pain. Create a sanctuary for sleep: Choose the right mattress and pillow for maximum comfort, use drapes to eliminate outside light, adjust your room temperature to cool and avoid the use of electronics.

With gravity, our spinal discs lose height and water during the day. As we sleep, the gravity load is removed and our discs rehydrate, taking on water and swelling up again. [4]

--Dr. Hansraj

Readers -- Do you suffer from back pain? Have you ever taken or been prescribed powerful pain relievers? Have you tried any of the steps above? If so, did they work? Leave a comment below and let us know.

 Dr. Ken Hansraj believes in whole-body wellness, preventative care and that the spine is a principal indicator of general health impacted by "human software and hardware." He is a spinal and orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures, bloodless spine surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery, laminectomies and spinal fusions.

 He has treated more than 20,000 patients and has come to recognize and promote the critical importance of the cervical spine as it relates to overall physical and mental well-being. He is the author of the internationally best-selling book, Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine. You can read more at drken.us.

Find more from Dr. Ken on Facebook and Twitter.       

References:

1. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.8992. [Epub ahead of print]
Worsening Trends in the Management and Treatment of Back Pain.Mafi JN, McCarthy EP, Davis RB, Landon BE.

2. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Apr 3;43C:48-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016. [Epub ahead of print]

Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Fox KC1, Nijeboer S2, Dixon ML2, Floman JL3, Ellamil M2, Rumak SP2, Sedlmeier P4, Christoff K5.

3. Pain. 2008 Feb;134(3):310-9. Epub 2007 Jun 1.
Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled pilot study. Morone NE1, Greco CM, Weiner DK.

4. Pain Med. 2009 Nov;10(8):1395-407. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2009.00746.x.
A mind-body program for older adults with chronic low back pain: results of a pilot study. Morone NE1, Rollman BL, Moore CG, Li Q, Weiner DK.

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