A man in blue shirt feeling pain on his back

Back and neck pain can range from a mild, dull ache to severe, disabling pain that restricts movement and interferes with your ability to function normally. Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide; an estimated 80% of U.S. adults will experience it at some point in their lives.

Back pain generally falls into two categories: Acute pain, which comes on quickly and intensely from an injury (and can take weeks to heal) and chronic pain, which can come on quickly or slowly, but can linger for weeks, months, or even years.

“Common causes include traumatic injury, strenuous activity, being out of shape, degenerative conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, a herniated disk or pinched nerve, or spinal deformity,” explains David H. Clements, MD, Director, Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, Cooper University Health Care.

The following tips will help avoid back pain in your everyday life:

Get Moving. Try to incorporate 20 to 30 minutes of movement into your daily routine. Choose a variety of strength, flexibility, and aerobic activities. Yoga, tai chi, light weightlifting, walking, and swimming all have health benefits and can help with lower back pain.

“If you do not already have an exercise routine, consider your current activity level, any recent injuries, and your cardiovascular health,” Dr. Clements says. “Always consult your primary care physician before starting a new exercise routine.”

Maintain the Proper Posture When Seated. When sitting, particularly if you are doing so for hours at a time, it is essential to maintain good posture. To make sure you are seated ergonomically, follow these steps:

  • Keep your feet flat on a sturdy surface.
  • Position your knees, hips, and elbows at 90-degree angles.
  • Make sure your wrists are in a straight and neutral position.
  • Keep your neck straight, with your eyes looking slightly down.
  • Keep everything you need within arm’s reach.
  • Get up to stretch occasionally.

Take Standing Breaks. For jobs that require you to sit all day, incorporate standing breaks every hour or two by standing, stretching, or walking for 10 to 20 minutes to “wake up” your body.

Maintain a Healthy Weight. Holding on to extra weight, particularly around your midsection, can shift your center of gravity and increase the chance you will experience back pain. Work with your doctor to identify your ideal weight for your body and lifestyle, and try to stay within 10 pounds of that.

Sleep Well. Make sure to get the proper amount of sleep, in a position that keeps your spine aligned from your hips to your head. Sleeping with your knees pulled up toward your chest, while on your side, helps keep the spine supported and balanced. If you need to sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as that increases pressure on your spine and can make pain worse.

Source: Cooper Health Care