Are you thinking about making a New Year’s resolution? If you are, then you are in good company! An estimated 188.9 million adult Americans (74% of the population) say they’re determined to learn something new, make a lifestyle change, or set a personal goal in an effort to better themselves in 2021 - a 15.17% increase from the previous year.
The top six categories that keep us to this holiday tradition relate to money, health, career, self-improvement, family, and love. When it comes to health, especially, many of the 31 million Americans who suffer from low back pain are making their wellness a priority in the coming year. So with that in mind, we put together the Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Low Back Pain. Read on to see what you can do for better back health in 2021!
1. Your Core
Lots of people think of abs and six packs when they think of core muscles, but your core is so much more. Your core is actually made up of the following:
Front abdominals (rectus abdominis)
Side muscles (internal and external obliques)
Deep abdominal muscles at the front (transverse abdominal)
Muscles along your spine (erector spinae and multifidus)
Pelvic floor muscles
I know — that’s quite a few muscles! It is no wonder that strengthening these muscles has such a significant impact on your body — it holds so much of it together. The weaker your core muscles are, the more your body has to rely on other structures like bones, ligaments, joints, and discs to support it. This is why our knees take strain, our hips need replacing and a host of other ailments occurs. This is also why strengthening your core can have huge benefits on reducing back pain, as well as helping in so many other areas.
Exercises to strengthen your core muscles can help prevent future injury, improve flexibility and increase stability. Your posture can also play a big part in preventing low back pain, and improving core muscle strength can have a beneficial effect on improving poor posture.
Examples of Exercises To Improve Your Core:
Upward facing dog
2. Your Diet
You know that saying, “You are what you eat”? Unfortunately this is actually true. There is growing evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet — one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein such as fish and chicken, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil — may help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to increased chronic pain, like low back pain.
Sugar is a common culprit in causing inflammation and there are some researchers who claim that it could be linked to growth in tumors. Some studies that have been conducted on mice have suggested that there might be a link between spinal degeneration, type 2 diabetes and diets high in advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).
AGEs are proteins or lipids (fat-like substances) that have become coated in sugars, which damage their function. Research suggests that a diet high in heat-processed foods, including fried foods, plays a role in AGE formation. Over time, the development of AGEs can cause tissues in the body to break down, which increases inflammation. This can eventually lead to spinal disc degeneration. AGEs have also been linked to other degenerative diseases, including diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Examples Of Foods To Help Prevent Inflammation:
Low sugar fruits and green leafy Vegetables
Dark berries (high in antioxidants)
Foods rich with Omega 3s (Like salmon and eggs)
Spices like turmeric and curcumin.
Eating foods (like the ones found in a Mediterranean diet) may help reduce your back pain simply because it can lead to weight loss. Losing just five pounds can take a load off your spine. Indeed, studies have found that those with a high BMI (body mass index) have a higher risk of developing back pain.
You know how you keep telling yourself you won’t binge anymore shows on Netflix? Well, this may be the year that you decide to do that for real. Did you know that there is a high association between lack of sleep and back pain? Not only does low back pain interfere with falling asleep, and staying asleep throughout the night, but getting too little sleep, or not getting good quality sleep can actually lead to increased sensations and perception of pain. This creates a never ending cycle of sleep deprivation.
When we sleep our brain acts like a dishwasher and removes toxins from our bodies. This helps to reduce inflammation and therefore improves low back pain. Not getting enough sleep can cause our immune system to weaken and inflammation to increase, causing our muscles to become inflamed, and be more susceptible to injury. We have some suggestions below but you can also check out our blog on 'How To Sleep With Low Back Pain' for more ideas.
Ways To Improve Your Sleep:
Aim for 7–8 hours of good quality sleep each night
Create a cool, dark environment with limited noises to distract you.
Turn off screens about 1–2 hours before you go to sleep. Blue light from screens disrupts your body’s melatonin production and can lead to a restless night.
Avoid big meals and alcohol right before bed.
Establish a set routine to help your body anticipate when it is time to go to sleep.
If you are not someone who typically loves to exercise, then this one can be tough! But one of the most important things that people with low back pain can do for themselves is to stay as active as possible and engage in some sort of regular exercise. Studies have shown that regular physical exercise can actually reduce pain and increase those feel-good endorphins. For years rest was one of the most recommended treatments for low back pain. We now know that it is actually better for you not to rest and that you should try to go about your daily life as normally as possible. Not moving enough can actually make pain worse over the long term, and can lead to other health problems.
When it comes to research, hundreds of studies have looked at the effects of exercise on low back pain. Exercise and sports are two of the few treatments that have been proven to relieve and reduce low back pain. This is why exercise is recommended by most medical associations and international guidelines for the treatment of low back pain. Research has also found that regular exercise can reduce the frequency of low back pain attacks by almost 50%!
Types of Exercise For Low Back Pain:
Aerobic exercise like swimming and walking
One of the most common symptoms associated with low back pain is stress. With almost 50% of people experiencing moderate to high stress levels, stress is a major contributing factor to low back pain. Stress can cause your low back muscles to tighten and can make you more susceptible to further injury. While your muscles are designed to tense up in order to protect you from injury, if you are constantly stressed they don’t get the chance to relax again. Muscles that are constantly stressed and tight can cause a range of problems, from body aches and stiff necks, to back and shoulder pain and headaches.
Stress can actually increase your sensitivity to pain as well, so that existing pain may actually be felt more intensely. When stress, anxiety and fear are all present at the same time (like, say in a global pandemic) the intensity and duration of pain is often magnified.
How To Deal With Stress:
Exercise helps to create endorphins which are your feel good hormones that are helpful in reducing stress.
Mindfulness. This practice of being in the moment and acknowledging feelings of stress and anxiety has been proven to reduce stress and help with low back pain.
Deep breathing. There are lots of different apps available to assist with this, and many new wearable health devices offer short breathing exercises that you can do throughout the day. Research has shown that deep breathing can reduce stress.
Meditation. This practice may seem strange if you are not used to it, but it is a centuries old method that many people swear by to calm their thoughts and bring a sense of calm and focus to the body.
Journaling. Along with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) practices, journaling is a wonderful way to capture anxious thoughts and engage different parts of your brain to help deal with them. There is scientific evidence to prove that journaling can reduce stressful thoughts and lower anxiety.
So, now that you know what healthy habits and New Year’s Resolutions you might be aiming for in 2021, the next big question is, how do you keep them?
Sadly enough, less than 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions each year. So how do you make and keep your resolutions successfully so that they don’t just get discarded like your grandmother’s random nose-warmer that she knitted for you 20 years ago? (Love you, grandma, just not the nose-warmer!)
The most important thing is to make resolutions that are highly important to you, rather than just doing something that you “think” you should be doing. Finding something that you truly believe in and have a deep desire to execute, means that you are more likely to stick to it, and it will constantly be on your mind, rather than being something you are always forgetting about, or trying to get out of doing. Once you know what you truly want to achieve for yourself in the coming year, then use these guidelines to make sure that you can achieve it over time.
Start with micro goals
Document your progress
Be patient with yourself and expect a few setbacks
Make time to execute your goals
Find a friend who shares similar goals to encourage you.
Reward yourself for your achievements
Ask others to hold you accountable
Now that you are armed with all of the knowledge on choosing a resolution that is right for you, as well as knowing how to achieve it, we would love to hear what changes you are planning on making to your life! Tag us on social media and let us know if you have achieved any of your micro goals yet - we believe in you!
Happy New Year and we wish you all the success in the world with your resolutions!