Low back pain (LBP) is a common, often confounding problem for patients and physicians. In the United States, at least 80% of adults experience at least 1 episode of LBP during their lifetime . LBP is the most common cause of disability among Americans between 45 and 65 years of age . Furthermore, of all musculoskeletal conditions, LBP imposes the greatest economic burden on the U.S. health care system . To read the rest of this abstract please download file.
Diet and Back Pain
Most people see no relation between what they eat and their back's strength and health. Just like the engine in your car, your body needs the proper nutrition so that the muscles can continue to move and support the spine. If your car runs out of gas, the engine quits and the car cannot move. If you have not eaten, your back muscles may quit working for you; they can weaken, tighten up, and become more susceptible to fatigue-related injury.
Eat Power Foods
Clearly, your muscles need food to maintain their vigor, but not just any food. The kind of food you eat matters. In our fast-paced society, eating right can be difficult. Fast food may satisfy your hunger and may even give you an energy boost, but your muscles and your body need power foods. Power foods are the ones that provide a great deal of energy slowly, over the course of a few hours. They can keep your muscles constantly supplied with the fuel they need to maintain the support and protection of your spine. Power foods are high in complex carbohydrates and low in simple sugars and fat and contain an adequate amount of protein.
Vitamins and minerals are also important; they play a critical role in your body's ability to release the energy from foods and in keeping your body healthy. Remember to get enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong and resilient.
Try to make fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat breads, and different forms of noodles and pasta the majority of your diet. Don't drown these foods in sauces, butter, dressing, or other forms of fat. Finally, limit soft drinks, candy bars, ice cream, cookies, and other sweets, because they provide too much energy too quickly for the body to use. Many times, this excess energy gets converted into fat and stored in your body in places you probably don't want it.
Some people eat the right kinds of food, but they don't eat frequently enough to maintain their energy level and keep their back muscles working. The most important meal of the day is breakfast, because as you sleep, the energy stored in your liver is depleted by the brain and other organs. When you wake up, about 95 percent of this reserve is gone. Your muscles and the rest of your body are just about to run out of gas, and weakened muscles can quickly become injured muscles. So eat a good breakfast, and give your body and back the energy they need for the morning.
Now that you've started the day with a full tank of gas, you must maintain your energy level throughout the day. The body actually works better and weight control is easier if you eat meals when you are hungry. You probably are conditioned to think that after breakfast, you should not eat until noon. However, your body may actually need the energy at 10 A.M.; if you wait until noon, you are starving your body for two hours and increasing the risk of a fatigue-related injury. This does not necessarily mean that you should eat constantly all day, nor does it mean that every time you are hungry you should sit down to a full meal. A slice of whole-wheat bread, a piece of fruit, or some low-fat yogurt may work just fine to keep your energy up and tide you over until you can have a complete meal.
Most people still believe in the three-meal diet, but a normal body should actually consume five or six small meals per day rather than two or three large ones. Research has shown that the routine of smaller, more frequent meals is much more effective in meeting the body's energy needs and reducing the storage of body fat than the traditional three-meal diet. Just be sure that you choose healthy foods for your six small meals.
As with all muscle tension, the amount of stress in your life can greatly affect how tight your back muscles are.
Stress and Back Pain
Lifting is not the only kind of stress that can hurt your back. Mental or emotional stress can be just as damaging, and many people encounter stressful situations daily. In the short term, the tension created by emotional stress can give you a backache; in the long term, it can set you up for a serious back injury, among other more life-threatening health problems.
Recognize Your Stress
Many people hold emotional stress in their muscles, especially the muscles of the neck and shoulders. You might know this stress as a tension headache that starts in the back of your neck and moves up and down from there. A bad day at work or an upcoming job interview can bring on that creeping tightness.
What actually causes the pain? Well, normally blood flows through the muscles of your neck and back with very little resistance. However, when you are emotionally stressed, certain muscles may tense up and squeeze these blood vessels. Like a garden hose with a kink in it, the flow of blood can get constricted or even cut off by these tense muscles. When your neck and back are not getting their proper blood supply, they let you know it with pain.
In addition to the temporary discomfort, more serious consequences can result from this stress-related tension. Because the blood carries the nutrients and oxygen that muscles need to function, a reduction in the blood flow can cause the muscles to weaken. They are, in effect, losing their fuel supply, and as mentioned previously, weak muscles are very susceptible to strain and injury. Learn to recognize when your mood and stress level are affecting your physical condition. When you feel that tension, be prudent – don't decide to rearrange your furniture that day.
Learn to Relieve Stress
After you recognize the emotional stress in your life, how can you deal with it? There are many ways. Try to identify the people and situations that tend to bother you. Maybe you can avoid some of them altogether -- that would be the best medicine. In reality, though some situations and people cannot be avoided, such as rush-hour traffic, deadlines at work, or an unyielding boss. Some anxiety is just part of everyday life.
The next best thing to total avoidance is learning to anticipate these situations ahead of time and making the conscious decision not to let them get to you. You might want to plan a way to make the situation easier on yourself. For example, if you must go to the grocery store at peak hours, accept the fact that there will be long checkout lines, and plan a diversion for yourself; bring a book to read. If you just can't stand battling rush-hour traffic, plan to work out at the gym for an hour after work. You avoid the traffic, relax your mind, and feed your back all at the same time.