BATON ROUGE, La. – September is Pain Awareness Month, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is sharing tips for preventing and managing one of the most common sources of pain: lower-back pain.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It’s also a leading cause of missed work days. And while back pain happens more often to adults, children also can experience it.
The good news is that in many cases, back pain is preventable or very manageable through lifestyle changes.
“Injuries or accidents can cause back pain, but many times, it’s caused by things like lifting or pulling heavy objects and spending too much time sitting down,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Blue Cross vice president of Health Quality and Innovation. “Because these factors are within our control, you can take steps to avoid back pain or stay on top of it very easily.”
Some lifestyle changes that help you manage back pain are:
• Exercising regularly. People who make exercise a daily or most-days habit tend to have less back pain. People who are out of shape are at higher risk for back pain, as are “weekend warriors” who will go several days without working out and then do a burst of physical activity. For the best back fitness, aim for 20-30 minutes of low-impact exercises like walking, swimming or yoga at least five days a week.
• Avoiding heavy lifting or carrying. Be very careful when lifting or moving objects like boxes and furniture or carrying overloaded purses and backpacks – this can strain your back and lead to pain. Break the objects down into smaller bundles, and ask for help if something is too heavy to move or carry alone.
• Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. Extra weight is added pressure on your back and spine. Reaching a healthy weight can lower your risk for back injury. Ask your healthcare provider to help you figure out the best weight range, based on your height, age and health factors.
• Quitting or avoiding smoking. Using tobacco products can restrict blood flow to your back and spinal area, which puts you at higher risk for back pain.
• Check in on your mental health. Stress, anxiety and depression are behavioral health conditions that can cause physical symptoms like back pain. Staying on top of your mental health can improve your overall well-being and lower your risk for pain.
• Practice good posture. If your job involves sitting at a desk most of the day, make sure you’re protecting your back. Get a chair that provides enough support. Take frequent breaks to stretch or move so you loosen up your back muscles. Sit up straight, and position your computer monitor or other materials you use often at a proper height so you’re not always reaching, bending down or hunching over.
“If you do have lower-back pain, especially if it’s ongoing and is interfering with your ability to work or do other activities, see your healthcare provider,” Dr. Wigginton said. “Your provider can talk with you about your work and your habits and can recommend a treatment plan for your specific needs.”
And, do not assume you’ll need an X-ray or imaging study for your back pain, Dr. Wigginton added.
“In many cases, especially if you have not been in an accident or have reason to believe you’ve hurt your back, doing imaging scans doesn’t help treat your back pain or get it to go away faster,” Dr. Wigginton said. “Many times, you can use a combination of rest, over-the-counter medications and heat or ice to treat the pain effectively.”
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About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.