--- 10 ways to increase back strength ---

When it comes to the core of our physical being, there are few things as important as our spine, making our back a crucial element our quality of life.

Protecting your spine and increasing back strength is essential for an active and healthy life, and some of the best ways to strengthen your back include massage, hot and cold compress, capsaicin creams, proper sleep habits, altering your diet, working smarter, and improving workout form, among a number of back-strengthening exercises.

When it comes to the core of our physical being, there are few things as important as our spine, which lies firmly in the middle of our back. This makes our back a crucial element to our flexibility, mobility, agility, strength, and overall lifestyle. However, the spine and the back are also fragile in certain ways, and have a huge amount of stress and strain put on them throughout the course of a single day, let alone over an entire life! Therefore, protecting your back and taking certain precautions to keep them strong and healthy is more important than many people think.

Back issues come in many types, although the most common are sprains, herniated discs and fractured vertebrae. Back injuries from accidents and traumatic events are unavoidable, but you'll likely have noticed that as we age, back pain increases, and even the most common activities can cause strain, pain, and twinges of weakness in our back. These are good indications that something needs to change in terms of your back maintenance.

The lower back, or the lumbar area, is the most common point of pain for people, as it supports a significant amount of our weight throughout the course of life, and is vulnerable to injuries from lifting, bending, and rotating movements, all of which are quite common in daily life. Fortunately, there are many techniques and lifestyle changes that can keep your spine and back protected as you age.

1. Work Habits: Some of the most common back problems come from a person's work habits. Particularly for those in office jobs, sitting for hours at a time can cause your muscles and joints to lock up, making injury or strain more common. When you prevent proper blood flow to the cells and tissues of the back by tensing your back muscles or slouching, you will feel the consequences when you eventually move. Work while standing up, move around the office, or at least work in an ergonomic chair!

2. Get Better Sleep: Many people don't know how to sleep properly; if you sleep on your side, it puts the least amount of strain on your back, but you may need two pillows to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine. That is the goal, to be comfortable, without putting excess strain on your neck or back. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided. Getting a proper amount of sleep is also important, as sleep if your body's time to recover and repair. If you put daily strain on your back, ensure that you find a comfortable position in bed, and then stay there for 8 hours!

3. Hot and Cold Therapy: While people are familiar with hot and cold compresses after an injury, few people do this on a regular basis, but the purpose is the same. By relieving the daily strain and stress on your spine and back, applying alternating hot and cold packs on your back can increase blood flow and relieve muscle tension, thus lessening your risk of injury and pain.

4. Massage: A regular programme of back massage can go very far towards keeping you relaxed and ensuring that your back stays strong. Deep-seated and long-term knots or tension in your back can alter the way you sit, sleep, and walk, thus throwing off your body's "balance", redistributing weight and stress on other joints and parts of the body. Rather than shifting the issue to other parts of your body, let the soothing and stress-reducing hands of a masseur work their magic from time to time.

5. Dietary Alteration: You might not think that your diet has much of a place in your back health, but it does! Lean muscle is the key support structure for the spine and back, and a diet in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and beneficial fats can help increase your production of lean muscle. Ensuring a balance diet of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids can help reduce inflammation of joints, tissues, and vertebrae of the back, relieving pain and increasing mobility.

6. Exercise Safer: Many people injure their back while trying to make it stronger, namely while exercising. Particularly for those people who lift weights or perform high-impact cardiovascular exercises, excessive jerking or pounding on the tissues and muscles of the back can easily lead to back injuries, herniated disks, and inflammation. Low-impact cardio, such as swimming, is highly recommended for those with back problems, and for resistance training, smooth and even moments are essential.

7. Daily Stretching: Every day should begin and end with stretching if you want to do the most for your back health. By warming up those muscles and tissues, you are far less likely to injure yourself by bending, straining, lifting or twisting. 10-15 minutes in the morning and at night, or even in the middle of the day if you have time, can significantly lower your risk of back injury and seriously boost your flexibility and back strength.

8. Reverse Fly Exercise: In terms of a specific exercise that can improve back strength, try the reverse fly. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back straight and bend slowly forward at the waist. Raise the weights to either side of your body; you should feel the work being done by your shoulder blades, but keep your lower back down and try not to tense that part of your back.

9. Monitor Your Tech Use: In our modern age of constant technology use, hunched over figures on tablets, smartphones, and computers is frighteningly common. This can not only result in forward head position in children during their developmental years, but can also put chronic stress on the neck and spine. If you want to boost your back strength, put the phone down and look around at the world once in a while!

10. Work on Your Posture: By having improper posture, you put constant awkward strain on the muscles, discs and tissues of your back. This unusual strain is "addictive", meaning that having bad posture will eventually become more comfortable than "good" posture, even though it is actually damaging your body. Next time someone tells you to "sit up straight", listen to them! Try to consciously monitor how you sit, lean, sleep, walk and drive; your back will definitely be stronger if you improve your posture during those daily activities!