Back and neck pain can be debilitating and can hinder one’s ability to live an active lifestyle. Therefore, it is essential that we take good care of our spine. Fortunately, this is not difficult.
- Exercise often. Just about any type of exercise will lessen the likelihood of developing significant back problems. Joining a gym, using cardio machines, lifting weights (with proper form) and taking part in fitness classes are great. In addition, yoga, tai chi, and Pilates are beneficial in helping to prevent back and neck problems.
- Get your body moving. The body in general, and the spine in particular, craves movement. One of the new catchphrases you probably have heard is “sitting is the new smoking”. Prolonged immobility is detrimental to your health – including your spine health. Here is another catchphrase to remember: “The best movement is the next movement”. What this means is get up and move! If you have a sedentary job, be sure to get out of your chair and move at least once per hour throughout the day. In addition, try taking a walk at lunch time or park farther away from your from your workplace.
- Limit how much you bend forward. Bending forward puts pressure on your discs, and bending forward repetitively, which so many of us do throughout the day, can lead to disc problems and weakness of the muscles that support the spine. If you are going to bend forward, keep your spine straight and bend at the hips and knees (figure 1 below). A simple exercise to practice this is to place a broomstick (or something similar) behind your back right down the middle, making contact with your rear end, your mid back and the back of your head. Have your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Slowly bend forward without allowing the stick to lose contact with any of those points (figure 2 below). Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times. Once you get good at this you can do the exercise without the stick (figure 3 below).
- Maintain a healthy diet. A proper diet will help decrease inflammation in your body. A good, simple place to start is cutting out sugar, flour, refined oils and soft drinks from your diet and replacing them with vegetables, fruits, fresh fish, meat, and poultry.
Following these simple steps can help to minimize the frequency and severity of back and neck problems.
Meet the Author
Dr. Murphy, is a primary spine practitioner who has nearly 30 years’ experience helping people return to productive, meaningful lives and has operated practices throughout Rhode Island. He cares for patients with problems such as back or neck pain, thoracic pain, disc pain, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, whiplash, headache, and pregnancy-related lower back pain and has served on national expert panels crafting physician guidelines on neck and back pain and has helped implement other integrated spine care programs like the program at Care New England.