The No. 1 Way to Beat Back Pain

It seems like just another part of aging...

You wake up in the morning, and the muscles in your back feel a little tight. Or you feel an ache in your upper back after a long day at work. You might just shrug it off and think to yourself, "I'm just getting older, so things are starting to hurt."

But getting older doesn't mean you have to or should live with back pain.

A lot of people might not know this, but the source of back pain often comes from a surprising culprit...

It turns out, more than 45% of adults over age 65 experience serious back pain – women more frequently than men... And only 10% of people ever find out the underlying cause of their pain, though poor posture is one of the main perpetrators...

As you age, your posture changes... Bone loss, spinal-disc shrinkage, and age-related muscle loss all play a role in your aging posture.

Over time, bad posture can lead to joint pain, osteoarthritis, headaches, and even glaucoma. It also contributes to heartburn, incontinence, and constipation. Studies have shown that poor posture puts extra pressure on your eyes and skull. Scientists have also discovered that good posture can contribute to emotional control and improved cognitive performance.

The way you stand and sit impacts the space your organs occupy. When your organs are crowded and too tightly packed together, they are unable to maintain their proper functions. Slouching puts extra pressure on your abdomen (heartburn) and bladder (incontinence) and closes off part of your anus (constipation). Look around a typical office, and you'll see plenty of folks slouching over their desks. And it leads to a whole lot of unnecessary pain.

Doing things like sleeping in a good position and investing in ergonomic furniture (like a standing desk) can also help you carry yourself correctly in your later years...

Daily stretching releases tension in your muscles and makes them more flexible. And it can improve your posture. That's why today I'm sharing three of my favorite stretches for back pain... and how you can start stretching in a more active way.

If you're really out of sorts, here are three stretching exercises to help...

  1. Bent-Over Stretch: Bend your knees about an inch and slowly bend forward. If you can, touch your toes. If not, grab on to a chair or a table to help steady yourself. Hold the position for 15 seconds, then slowly stand back up.
  2. Spinal Twist: This is great for your lower back and hips. Lie on the floor and slowly bring one knee up to a bent position. Then cross it over your body – so your left knee would twist to the right and vice versa. Keep your back flat and hold for five to 15 seconds. To increase the stretch, turn your head to look in the opposite direction of your bent knee.
  3. Half Cobra: I love this stretch. Resting on your belly, keep your feet out with the tops resting on the floor. Place your elbows beneath your shoulders and gently push your shoulders and chest up, keeping your hips on the floor. Hold this position for about 10 seconds. This is actually the half cobra. Once you can do this comfortably, try moving on to the "full cobra." That's when you extend your arms to arch your back even more... It's next to impossible to keep back pain if you do this regularly enough.

You can do more active things to treat your posture, too...

Do what I do and practice yoga. Yoga is one of the best ways to stretch, straighten, and strengthen your spine.

Stretching and yoga are similar activities, but they're not exactly the same. Stretching involves moving your muscles through their full range of motion and generally focuses on a specific group of muscles. Stretching is a component of yoga.

Yoga is a full-body exercise that requires you to perform a series of poses. It involves stretching (to build flexibility) and breathwork... and it also builds strength.

Practicing yoga (or tai chi) and getting orthotics to help with foot or leg problems – like heel lifts, for example – will support your muscle and bone health throughout life.

Some of the best yoga moves to support your posture are probably ones you're already familiar with... I do these almost daily and sometimes more often.

Yoga builds your strength and stretches your body at the same time. Here are five YouTube video links for step-by-step instructions on how to perform each of these poses:

Having good posture improves your brain, digestion, blood network, bones, and life in general. Movement, stretching, and sleeping positions all play a role in your quality of life. You don't want to go through your life in pain. Stretch or do yoga two or three times a week (at least) to maximize your healthspan.

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 11, 2023