When we are feeling strong and healthy it seems there is nothing we can’t do, but the moment we feel a twinge of soreness in our backs, it is hard to get much done at all. There are two types of back pain we are going to focus on: upper back pain and lower back pain.
Upper back pain
Upper back pain is any pain that stretches from the middle of the back and up, even through and across the shoulders. This type of back pain can occur as a result of injury or strain, but upper back pain is also associated with stress, obesity, poor posture, and weak core (abdominal) muscles. In the case of an injury or a strain, muscles and ligaments in the upper back may be stretched too far or torn, resulting in pain and inflammation.
Stress and poor posture can result in upper back pain, too. When we are feeling physical or emotional stress or we are out of alignment in our spines, our whole body tends to slump forward, including our necks. Our shoulders may creep up towards our ears, and we may shorten the muscles of the abdomen, offering little support for our muscles. Chronic bad posture makes it even worse. When we finally do get back into alignment, our backs may feel sore or tired as our muscles re-learn their job.
A holistic treatment for upper back pain might include specific exercises that target the affected area, relaxation or meditation techniques to reduce stress, back strengthening exercises that target core abdominal muscles for support, over-the-counter medicines, or prescription medicines as needed and prescribed by your doctor.
Lower back pain
Lower back pain is felt from the mid-back to the base of the spine and can also be a result of injury or strain on the muscles. Injury to this area is most common when lifting heavy loads (make sure to always lift with your legs, not your back). Excessive weight may also contribute to low back pain, as may stress or emotional strain (although this is more commonly felt in the upper back). To ease lower back pain, treat the affected area with hot or cold packs. Either will ease pain, but you may prefer one over the other. In addition, rest and exercise, natural opposites, it seems, play a role. Rest when you are injured but remain active when you are well to maintain strong muscles and a healthy weight!
Have you ever experienced upper or lower back pain? How did you treat it?
Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr