Oh those bones, oh those bones, oh those skeleton bones! Back pain, specifically, is a common reason for medical visits; patients report dull aches to sharp pain that make it hard to move. Back pain can come on quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy, or it can get worse over time.

Poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, arthritis or osteoporosis, and carrying excess weight are some of the factors that may increase risk of back pain and injury. It’s important to find ways to reduce your risk, as a healthy spine is critical to overall health. According to The University of Maryland Medical Center, our spine gives our body structure, support, flexibility, and protection for our spinal cord and organs.

There are several things that you can do to improve your spine health and help prevent back pain and injury:

  • In addition to your regular exercise routine, perform back strengthening and stretching exercises at least 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Perhaps you are sitting behind a desk with legs crossed; be more mindful of sitting and standing up straight with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. If you do lift a heavy object, practice safe lifting techniques:
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight
  • Do not twist your back as you carry large objects
  • Spread your feet apart so your legs carry more of the weight and the pressure is released from the spine
  • Talk to a health professional about how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss decreases strain on the spine.
  • Practice workplace ergonomics. Proper posture and position of the workstation reduces stress on muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments. If you are sitting for a large portion of the day, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch, and walk.
  • Get help to quit smoking. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in your back if you smoke, and back pain may last longer.

If you are suffering from either acute or chronic back pain, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Examples of when to see a doctor:

  • Pain is getting progressively worse
  • Radiating pain going down into the leg
  • Numbness or tingling in the thigh or leg
  • Loss of strength
  • Balance changes

Don’t wait until you experience back pain or injury to attend to your spine. Rather, take a proactive approach to a healthy spine; your back will thank you!

Sources: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, University of Maryland Medical Center, LifeWork Strategies, Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.