6. Get out of bed and onto a ball. Sitting on a stability ball for 30 seconds or more each morning helps align ligaments around your disks, says Dr. Fine. 7. Quit it. In case you need yet another reason to stop smoking, consider this: Nicotine constricts blood flow to spinal disks, causing them to age faster than normal. Visit cancer.org/smokeout or call the national tobacco quit line at 800784-8669. 8. Get fitted. Women with large breasts are more prone to back issues. Be sure you’re wearing the right-size bra, which can help distribute chest weight and prevent you from hunching over. In severe cases breast reduction surgery, which typically removes 1 to 6 pounds from each side, may be beneficial. 9. Reconfigure your computer setup. Looking down at a screen, what people often do when working on laptops, puts strain on neck and back muscles, says Dr. Carneiro.Your monitor should be at eye level, elbows and shoulders at 90 degrees. If you use a laptop,
consider getting a separate keyboard to make these ergonomic adjustments. 10. Find pressure points. Studies indicate that acupuncture (the Chinese medicine technique of inserting thin needles into the skin) can help reduce back pain. If you shy away from needles, try shiatsu, which uses massage at acupuncture points. “I typically recommend massage or acupuncture to patients with muscles that won’t relax, even with physical therapy,” says Heidi Prather, D.O., professor of orthopedic surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Find an acupuncturist or shiatsu therapist from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at nccaom.org. 11. Stress less. The neurochemicals that flood your system when you’re dealing with tough times can lead to emotional and physical pain. Reduce anxiety with regular exercise, a healthy diet, psychotherapy and, if necessary, antianxiety/antidepressant prescription medication, such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro or Buproprion.
12. Consider steroids. When other attempts at relieving pain fail, especially if you have a herniated disc and sciatica (leg pain), steroid injections may provide relief. “A shot of dexamethasone or methylprednisolone in the back can decrease inflammation and keep you moving,” says Wellington Hsu, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. These medications can ease discomfort for months. 13. Give your spine support. Your lower back naturally curves inward, but most chairs cause it to round out, which can throw off alignment. “Cushioning your lumbar is the key to maintaining your spine’s neutral curvature,” says Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT, chief of physical therapy at Harvard University Health Services in Boston. Scoot all the way back in your chair with a roll of paper towels or a lumbar pillow wedged behind your waist. In a car or a public place stuff your coat behind you. “Once your low back is supported, your neck and upper back will stay in proper position,” Wilmarth says. 14. See the right doctor. A trip to your internist can reassure you that your pain is nothing serious, like a malignancy, infection or fracture. Next step: “See a spine specialist to help pinpoint the problem and get the best treatment,” says Jared Greenberg, M.D., an interventional spine physician at Meriter Medical Group in Madison, Wisconsin. “If in the end surgery is indeed necessary, you want to be able to look back and say ‘I did everything I could to avoid this,’ ” says Dr. Greenberg. To find a non-operative spine specialist, visit the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at aapmr.org. 15. Work your core. Strong abs are vital for a stable body, and, conversely, weak stomach muscles are often linked to back issues. The best exercise to practice regularly is the plank. Lie face down on the ground and push yourself up on your forearms and toes to form a straight line with your back. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.To make this move more difficult, push up onto your hands and straighten (but don’t lock) your arms. If possible, shift your weight to the right and raise your left arm to thesky, stacking your left foot on top of your right. Keep your hips up so your body forms a straight line from your ankles to shoulders. Switch sides after 30 to 60 seconds.
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