Neck and back pain are two of the most common medical conditions affecting nearly 80 percent of all US adults, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. By taking care of your spine, you can help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of neck and back pain and injury down the road.
Stand close to the object you are lifting, squat down and use your legs to lift the object keeping your back as straight as possible. If you are lifting weights for exercise (i.e., deadlifts, military presses, hang cleans, squats, etc.), be sure to consult a professional on proper lifting technique.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Carrying around extra weight puts additional stress on the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your back. This can lead to back pain. Being overweight or obese can also increase your surgical risk.
Exercise can help to decrease back pain. We recommend performing core strengthening exercises on a regular basis. Buyck recommends yoga or pilates as a way to strengthen and exercise your core. Along with yoga and pilates, consider visiting a physical therapist to learn more about core exercises.
People who smoke have nearly twice the incidence of suffering from low back pain as non-smokers. Smoking can also increase your risks for you during surgery.Talk to your primary care provider about smoking cessation options.
Take frequent breaks.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time (greater than 30 minutes) can increase your chance of back pain.
“Depending on your type of work you should try and take short walks throughout the day. This can be as simple as walking to the printer,” said Buyck. “If your work allows, consider using a sit-stand desk.”
Maintain a correct posture.
Avoid slouching and support the natural curvature of your spine with an ergonomic chair. To ensure you are sitting straight, keep both feet planted on the floor and do not cross your legs.
Staying flexible helps reduce the risk of injury by maintaining good range of motion of your joints. Buyck recommends the following stretches as an introductory program. For a complete routine specific to your pain, contact a physical therapist.
- Cat Back Stretch (known as Cat-Cow pose in yoga): Kneel on your hands and knees in a relaxed position. Then raise your back (like a cat) and hold for 30 seconds. Relax for 30 seconds and repeat five times a day.
- Low Back Extension and Flexion Stretch (known as Cobra and Child’s poses in yoga): Lie on a firm surface with your face down and press up with your arms. Hold this position for five seconds. Then extend your arms, rock backward and sit on your bent knees. Next, tuck your head until you feel a stretch in your back. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times per day.
- Side Straddle: Sit on the floor or stand with your legs spread apart. Place both hands on one of your ankles and bring your chin as close to your knee as possible. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Then repeat with your other ankle. Use this stretch sequence 5 times per day.
Most importantly, listen to your body. Pain is a protective mechanism and, therefore, shouldn’t be ignored. If you have experienced pain that limits activities of daily living, Buyck advises not to delay treatment with your doctor or a specialist.