Back Pain and Blood Pressure – Save Yourself this Holiday Season!
STEVEN J. LIPSKY MD, FACEP
This month we discuss drug-free ways to relieve back pain and lower your blood pressure:
1) Back Pain – It has been estimated that 1 to 4 out of 5 Americans will develop back pain sometime within their lifetime. Correct posture, standing and sitting tall instead of hunched over helps relieve discomfort caused by disk and vertebral compression.
Flatten the spine when standing as if sitting, and keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet — more on the heels than on the balls. Use a straight-back chair when sitting, with the buttocks square on the seat and feet flat on the floor. Align the spine by rolling the shoulders back and down 5 times. Then with the head in a neutral position looking forward, look as far upward and backward as possible, extending your neck. Return to the neutral position, and look upward and backward again even further. Return to the neutral position, and look upward and backward even further, a third time. Do this set of exercises hourly when sitting at a work desk/computer. This will help relieve upper back and neck tension/pain.
For lower back pain, lying on one’s back with pillows behind the knees and a 3″ wide rolled across the back of the neck relieves discomfort. Alternatively, lying on one’s side with a pillow between the knees and another under the side of the head works wonders.
Massage, Hatha Yoga, Pilates, spinal stretching, cold or heat applications, and acupuncture are other non-drug therapies that work as well. Furthermore, doing daily back and abdominal core muscle strengthening exercises both relieves and prevents back strain. And Finally, never sleep prone (i.e. on one’s stomach) or on a soft mattress.
2) Blood Pressure – At least 30minutes of aerobic exercise daily (e.g. brisk walking, swimming, or jogging) has been shown to reduce hypertension. Losing just 10 pounds of weight helps, especially for men and women with waistlines greater than 40″ and 30″, respectively.
Avoiding saturated fats and salt (no more that 1500mg/day has been recommended for everyone), and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and at least 3 servings of cold water fish like wild salmon/wk (i.e. the DASH diet–Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is beneficial. Alcohol and tobacco products damage arteries, which can lead to hypertension, so limit or eliminate their use.
Cut back on caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Take Vitamin C, Calcium, and Magnesium supplements, which all have been shown to decrease blood pressure/arterial wall tension.
Finally, reduce stress and anxiety that can cause blood pressures to spike. Do this by trying any form of meditation, deep breathing exercises such as the East Indian study of Prahnayahma, or yoga.
No one likes the hassle or expense of having to take prescription medications. Hopefully by taking the above advice into consideration, anyone with these medical conditions can avoid or reduce the need.