Back Pain and Blood Pressure – Save Yourself This Holiday Season!

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.

Dr. Steven Lipsky

Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP has been a Board Certified Emergency Physician in Arizona for the last 41 years, and a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley for the last 40 years. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from New York University School of Medicine and did post-graduate training in Family Practice at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix before going into the full-time practice of Emergency Medicine in 1975. Dr. Lipsky has worked in every type of Emergency Department in Arizona – from inner city and rural, small volume and large, public and private hospitals, teaching and nonteaching hospitals. He has taught at the Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine – Division of Clinical Education, as well as in Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine Arizona. He has received the highest number of patient satisfaction letters in his group at multiple facilities and has been recognized at Paradise Valley Hospital for his outstanding performance. A past president of the Arizona College of Emergency Physicians (representing over 800 Emergency Physicians in our state) along with many other positions in the organization, Dr. Lipsky was also one of six Councillors representing Arizona to the National Council of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Dr. Lipsky built, owned, and was the Medical Director for the first 24hr free-standing Emergicenter and Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service in Jamaica. In conjunction with USAID, Cornell Medical Center’s School of Public Health, the Ministry of Health and Environmental Control of Jamaica, and the U.S. Peace Corps, he participated in a successful program to stem infant mortality in rural areas.

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