Learning all you can to relieve arthritis back pain will help you break down roadblocks. Misconceptions can become big roadblocks to your pain relief: if you fear that pain medications will make you addicted, or believe that using a cane or some other device will make you appear weak. Also, health care workers, employers, family and friends who are not supportive and downplay pain are big roadblocks. Although studies have shown that pain is under treated, some health care systems make access to pain treatment difficult.
Following are some ways to relieve arthritis back pain with gentle exercises.
Regain proper posture:
Stand and sit up straight. Jutting the abdomen forward can cause lower back pain, as can slouching in a desk chair.
Computer workers may develop back pain directly related to an incorrectly placed keyboard. Your arms should hang comfortably at your sides, elbows at a right angle, with your wrists relaxed while typing. Your upper body should be about 20 to 26 inches from your monitor, the top of which should be even with the top of your head in its normal position.
Consider physical therapy:
Physical therapists can observe how you sit, stand and walk and teach you how to adjust your posture so you can move with less pain. They will tailor exercises to your particular condition and help you relieve back pain, maintain motion and prevent joint stiffening.
Or consider getting a trainer. A trainer can show you the right way to exercise to prevent injury and avoid undue joint stress. Doing an exercise wrong is often more harmful than not exercising at all.
One of the best things you can do for back pain is to move, gently and in moderation. Many people do that by participating in ancient forms of movement such as yoga and tai chi. Yoga and Tai Chi strengthen the mind-body connection, allowing you to get your body fit while you get your mind in shape. They keep joints strong and muscles limber while erasing stress.
Some gentle yoga exercises stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hips, back and legs; others improve muscle strength in the abdomen, which supports the lower back. When performed daily, yoga’s breathing exercises, postures and meditation practices, have been shown to improve flexibility and balance, regulate heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety.
Tai chi has an added benefit, to improve balance. In a large research study, seniors practicing tai chi suffered 25 percent fewer injuries from falls than control groups.
Recent research shows that exercises designed to strengthen back muscles may be useful even if you don’t have back pain yet. In a recent study of 50 women between the ages of 58 and 75, those who performed back-strengthening exercises suffered fewer painful fractures of the vertebrae than women who didn’t do the exercises.
Exercise in water:
Try exercising in water. Aquatic exercises let you keep doing many of the exercises you love, while taking a load off your joints. If you don’t have access to a warm-water pool, you can do warm-water exercises on a smaller scale in your own tub, Jacuzzi or whirlpool bath. Warm water is a good place to stretch and strengthen your back muscles, even for those who have difficulty exercising on dry land. Acting as resistance to help build muscle strength, the buoyancy of water makes exercise seem easier and more comfortable. In a recent study by Japanese researchers, exercise, whether on land or in water, decreases pain levels, increases the body’s production of inflammation-fighting hormones and decreases stress and anxiety, which can make back pain worse.
Monitor how you’re feeling after exercise. If your joints are still aching two hours after your workout, lighten your routine next time.
Arthritic back pain that requires stability may benefit from a brace or corset at some time. Elasticized, close-fitting undergarments supporting the lower hips, lower back and abdomen can typically be worn under your clothing.
Corsets are adjustable and made of elastic while braces are sturdier and have metal stays. Both are used to reduce pressure on the discs, small, circular cushions of tissue that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. Also to provide back and abdominal support and keep the spine stable while it heals.
Braces are often prescribed for temporary pain relief, especially during times you’ll be particularly active or sitting for long periods of time. Braces, or guards, not only prevent injury but also reduce the load on joints. They are often prescribed as a way to restrict movement of the spine during recovery from a fractured vertebrae or some surgeries.
If other therapies haven’t helped your pain, you may want to try acupuncture. Acupuncture has gained credibility in the medical community. A key component of Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles at particular points on the body. The needles may be connected to a low-level electrical current for a more powerful effect. A National Institutes of Health panel concluded that acupuncture could help in the treatment of back pain without the side effects of medications. Western doctors believe acupuncture most likely works by prompting the body to release pain-relieving substances called endorphins.
If you decide to try acupuncture, make sure your acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable needles and that they are licensed by your state and certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
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