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Life in Motion

5 Ways to Prevent Back Pain

Back, Neck & Spine

In the United States, 80% of us will experience some form of back pain during our lifetime. While some cases of back pain are unavoidable, Dr. Kevin Bernard, physiatrist at the NEBH Spine Center, explains some ways to help protect your back and prevent back pain.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the best things you can do to prevent back pain is to maintain a healthy weight. Being even slightly overweight puts added pressure on your spine and lower back.

Exercise

When a person is not in shape, they lose the stability in their core that supports the back and keeps it strong. Regular exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight as well as stretch, strengthen and repair muscles that help support the back. Click here for ways to exercise your core, which can help to improve balance and stability. To find ways to work your para-spinal muscles, which hold the joints of your spine together and help to stabilize your back, click here.

Avoid Sitting for Extended Periods of Time

The average person spends over half of his or her waking hours doing sedentary activities, from working at a computer to watching television or driving, according to a January 2015 article in “Annals of Internal Medicine”. These long periods of sedentary behavior can place strain on your lower back, which can cause damage to your spinal disks.

When sitting for a long period of time, try these stretches:

  • Yoga “cat” and “cow” poses: On your hands and knees, bend your head down and arch your back up into the “cat” position; then lift your head up and arch your back down into “cow.”
  • Lower back stretch: Sitting in a chair, bend one of your knees and pull it toward your chest, gently pulling your thigh towards you. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

You should also try to move around for 1-3 minutes once every half hour that you’re doing a long-term sitting activity like working at the computer or watching television.

Always Use Proper Lifting Technique

No matter what it is you are picking up, lifting improperly can strain your back.

To lift a heavy object properly:

  • Separate your feet so they are shoulder width apart.
  • Bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles, not your back, as you stand up.

To lift a light object (such as a newspaper) properly:

  • Lean over the object, slightly bend one knee and extend the other leg behind you.
  • Hold on to a nearby chair or table for support as you reach down to the object.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking damages nearly every part of your body, including your spine. Both the smoke and nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal. If you need help quitting, visit smokefree.gov and talk with your primary care physician.

If you have any type of persistent pain, consult an orthopedic expert.

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