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Back Pain 101

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Back pain can ruin your life, and your wallet

Intro: gross stats

Those with back pain spend $3000 more yearly on healthcare than those without back pain.

Nearly doubling healthcare costs
Averages= $4,000 -> $7,000 [5]
($86 billion total in 2005 [1])
($7 billion cost to employer’s yearly [1])

Add in:

Lowered productivity
Missed work
Missed social events
Missed family events
A much more sedentary lifestyle

And the costs really start to add up.

Sound familiar?

That’s because 31 million people in the U.S. experience back pain every day

That’s 10% of the population.

Chances are you’ll be one of them

80% of people experience back pain in their life [1]
That’s twice as many people as suffer from allergies (40%-50%) [2]
Ten times the number of Americans with Diabetes (8.5%) [4]
And triple the 30% of people who will be diagnosed with cancer during their lives. [3]

Back pain also often accompanies other more serious health conditions.
Lower back pain sufferers are three times more likely to be in fair or poor health[6]
And four times more likely to be in psychological distress due to pain.[6]
Than the population at large.

While some back pain is unavoidable and due primarily to aging, most back pain can be avoided with a few simple preventative measures.

Main causes of back pain

Unavoidable
Trauma
Aging
Degeneration of spinal vertebrae
Inflammation of spinal facets

Avoidable
Ligament and muscle weakness and strain
Bad Posture
Misalignment of spine

D.I.Y.

Preventative back care techniques

Posture
Dr. Praveen Mummaneni [5]
Stand up
Lift your chin slightly
Align your ears over your shoulders
And your shoulders over your hips
Hands on hips, lean forward about two inches
Sit leaving a slight inward curve of the lower back
Slight outward curve of the upper back
Leaving the spine in a “J” not an “S”
Roll your shoulders back one at a time.
Voila!

Alexander Technique [8]
(Developed by an actor who had a problem losing his voice. Doctors said nothing was physically wrong, so Alexander began to exam what he was doing to himself.)
Balance your head
Your head weighs 10 pounds.
At the wrong angle that pulls on neck muscles and the spine.
Use gravity.
Gravity can compress your vertebrae or stretch them.
Elongate the lower back, then sit down and lean back.
Supporting muscles vs. mobilizing muscles
Supporting muscles lie deep in the back and can support you without strain.
Focus on the muscles around your spine, under your rib cage.
Mobilizing muscles, such as the lats (upper back) should not be used to hold you up.
Your back doesn’t end at your shoulders.
Imagine your arms as an extension of your back.
Rotate them back behind you.

Sleeping
Try to keep ears, shoulders, and hips aligned [7]
Insert pillows into the gaps between you and your mattress.
Don’t let your knees knock into each other.
USE PILLOWS!
Try not to sleep on your stomach.
But if you just HAVE to, don’t use a large pillow for your head.
Place a flat pillow under your pelvis to align the spine.

Exercise
One of the greatest preventative measures for back pain.
Routines that increase strength and flexibility, or the strength of your core, are best.
Pilates
Yoga

How to align your spine
Reach behind your head and link hands, stretch backwards arching your back.
Inhale
Slowly proceed to touch your toes
Exhale slowly as you stretch
Slowly straighten imagining vertebrae stacking one on top of another
Inhale slowly
Once you get to your neck, imagine a string proceeding to the ceiling from the top of your head, balancing your head on top of your properly stacked vertebrae.
Release, drop your weight, imagining that you are a puppet with a string proceeding from your head to the ceiling.

One of the greatest threats: work
As many know, your office space can lead to excruciating back pain, day in, day out.
Use posture tips from above.
The top of your computer screen should be slightly below eye level.
Forearms should rest at a 90 degree angle
Use a rolled up towel, a cushion, of a chair with lumbar support.
Get up every 30-60 minutes to walk/stretch
It resets your spine.
The Average American worker is sedentary 8.5 hours a day. [1]
Don’t tell me you can’t get up and stretch every hour.
It’s not worth the backache!

Sources:
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/business/soothing-back-pain-by-learning-how-to-sit-again.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[2] http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics.aspx
[3] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/incidence/risk/statistics-on-the-risk-of-developing-cancer
[4] http://ndep.nih.gov/diabetes-facts/
[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/health/25consumer.html
[6] http://paininjuryrelief.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Back-Pain-infographic_lores.jpg
[7] http://www.browardhealth.org/Taxonomy/RelatedDocuments.aspx?id=0&sid=1&ContentTypeId=1&ContentID=4460
[8] http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/drums/how-to-improve-posture-with-the-alexander-technique-part-1-202601

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