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By the Editors, Prevention

Oof, your aching back!

Between phone calls, emails, and deadlines, who has time to sit up straight? Unfortunately, the office is probably one of the primary sources of your back pain, as slouching for eight hours a day, five days a week without regular stretch breaks can throw your back out of whack. That’s because back muscles will weaken if you don’t use them, and inactive joints lose lubrication and age more quickly. Here are some quick tips to keeping your back aligned at your desk.

Sit At A 135-Degree Angle

This position can reduce compression of the discs in your spine, so lean back slightly every now and then. Do it when you take a phone call or when a coworker stops by to chat.

Get A Chair That Supports The Curve Of Your Spine

We hardly realize that the chair itself could be the source of our back problems. Your lower back should be supported, and your head should be straight -- not lurching forward -- when you look at your computer screen.

Don’t Cross Your Legs

You’re probably not even thinking about it, but chances are, you do it at your desk every day. We get it; it’s comfortable and probably unconscious, but this position could lead to a buildup of pressure in your legs. Not only that, it’s one of the main reasons why sitting may give you back pain.

Got achy knees too? Discover the best and worst exercises for bad knees.            

Get Up

This is the easiest solution to your back woes. Walk around for a couple of minutes every half hour. Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email, ask to have a “walking meeting” outside instead of in a conference room, or take the stairs in lieu of the elevator. This will help release your muscles and also give your seated posture and eyes a break.

Get Relief For The Most Common Ailment

If you suffer from lower back pain, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the U.S. (second to headaches), and Americans spend at least $50 billion a year on treating it. For most of you, bouts go away within a few days, but others may not be so lucky. The good news, though, is that lower back pain is completely avoidable. If you stick to the following tips, you can say goodbye to that nagging lower back for good.

Do Yoga

All kinds of exercises can promote back pain recovery by improving circulation and reducing stress, but researchers from the University of Washington believe yoga may be the best. They say yoga eases lower-pack pain faster than most conventional exercises because it promotes deep breathing and relaxation, as well as stretching and strength. Therefore, yoga can help you with both the emotional and structural triggers of back pain. You can find yoga classes everywhere -- at gyms or local studios or you could even start a yoga group with friends at home. But be sure to consult your instructor who can help customize a plan that’ll work best for you and your back pain.

If your back and neck ache, try these five yoga fixes for bad posture.              

Meditate

You might think meditation is a bit unorthodox, but many doctors will attest to its effectiveness in managing and reducing chronic pain. It’s a natural remedy that we think will work great on that achy lower back of yours, but if you aren’t sure where to start, try out some simple breathing exercises first, which will help lessen your pain perception. For example, give the 4-7-8 breath a go: • Sit or lie in a comfortable position and place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper teeth. • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a gentle “whoosh” sound. • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four. • Then hold your breath for a count of seven. • Finally, exhale completely through your mouth (“whoosh”) to a silent count of eight. • Inhale and repeat the cycle three more times.

Let Go Of Your Grudge

According to researchers at Duke University Medical Center, those who practiced forgiveness experienced less anger, resentment and depression -- and fewer aches and pains. “Our emotions, muscle tension and thoughts can directly influence the strength of our pain signals,” says researcher James W. Carson, Ph.D. So if you find that you’ve been harboring some negative energy toward people in your life, try to let it go. You’ll do wonders for your physical health. But remember that forgiveness isn’t a simple, one-time remedy; it involves choosing, again and again, to replace anger and resentment with understanding.

Get Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient practice where tiny needles are inserted into specific points in the body as a means of correcting imbalances of energy -- known as qi or chi-which, in turn, regulates our health and our sensitivity to pain. While there isn’t much scientific consensus on acupuncture’s effectiveness, research has shown that pinning needles at specific acupuncture points can alleviate pain. And if anything, acupuncture can be a relaxing experience that will help loosen up a tense back.

Take An Anti-Inflammatory Supplement

You can always turn to natural, herbal remedies to soften your back pain. You could try devil’s claw, an African herb that has a long history of medical use and has been shown in recent research to ease chronic lower-back pain. Doctors have also found omega-3 fish oil supplements and daily consumption of anti-inflammatory spices, like turmeric and ginger, to be helpful as well. As always, consult your doctor or certified naturopath about which ones will address your back pain the best.

Overwhelmed by the supplement aisle? Here's how to find out the supplements you actually need -- and what you don't.             

 


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