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Tips for Avoiding Back Pain
by Esther Gokhale

Learning to re-establish natural posture and movement patterns will address the root cause of pain

Back pain plagues many people. Unfortunately, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, physical therapy and surgery are not always the answer for back pain. And even massage, yoga, and popular chiropractic techniques aren't always the solution, either. After years of studying cultures with low incidents of back pain,  I have found that re-establishing natural posture and movement  patterns addresses the root cause of pain, which leads to regaining and  maintaining a pain-free back. Here are some tips for movements that address natural posture that have helped many of my patients find a way to pain-free living.

When you're in bed:
Use your arms to help stretch your back out as you lie down. Bend your knees and hoist yourself up on your elbows. Press your elbows towards your feet so your back is lengthened. Lay yourself down with this extra length in place. This allows your back to heal itself as you sleep.

When you're carrying a purse:
Carry the purse closer to your spine than your belly button. Use your elbow to nudge the bag or straps towards your back. This way, there's less pressure on your back, the purse doesn't slide from your shoulders as easily and the weight of the purse helps settle your shoulder backward instead of forward. Also, don't tense your shoulder upward against the weight of the purse; you want to let the weight of the purse help pull your shoulder gently downward.

When you're at your computer:
Sit close enough so that you're not tempted to hunch your shoulders and/or body to reach the keyboard. Roll your shoulders back so they are in a good starting position and then come in towards your keyboard so you can reach with just your forearms reaching ahead of you.

When you're standing in line:
Check that your weight is mainly over your heels while you are standing. Your heels are much better equipped to take the weight of your body than the delicate tissues in the front of your feet. Rock your hips back and forth till you feel most of your weight leave the front of your feet. Counterbalance this shift by hinging your upper body forward so you feel stable. You are now preventing a host of foot problems including bunions, plantar fasciitis, Morton's neuroma, etc.

When you're brushing your teeth:
Hinge from your hips and keep your back as straight as possible when you are brushing. Check your profile in the mirror to see how you're doing. Hip hinging benefits your body by strengthening your back muscles and stretching your hamstrings. Do not hunch forward as this will damage your spinal discs, nerves, and ligaments.

When you're driving:
Use the headrest of your car seat to give the back of your neck an extra stretch. Begin by gently pulling the hair on the back of your head up and back and then leaning your head against the headrest a little higher than it would ordinarily rest. This not only gives your neck a comfortable stretch, but also restores your head position to what it used to be when you were a child.

When you're walking:
Squeeze the buttock muscles in your rear leg to get a natural propulsion forward with every step. This will give you better balance, speed, and those proverbial "buns of steel."

When you're sitting:
At your child's next sports event, put your behind out behind you on the bleacher seat so your back stacks without any tension. Find a place for your bottom that allows you to sit comfortably upright rather than upright and tense or relaxed and hunched.

Pain specialist Esther Gokhale is the author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back and is the founder of a wellness center in Palo Alto. Learn more at www.egwellness.com

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