Almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in life. In fact, back pain is one of the most common nervous-system complaints, second only to headaches. According to the National Institute of Neurologic Disease and Stroke, low back pain is one of the top causes of missed workdays, and its treatment costs about $50 billion each year.
Dr. MarlIs Gonzalez-Fernandez, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the medical director of the outpatient physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, has some advice for back pain prevention:
- Maintaining good physical fitness is the best way to reduce the possibility of injury. Year-round aerobic and strengthening exercises help build strong back muscles and maintain a stable spine. Exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles also promote spine stability.
- Many of the activities traditionally associated with the winter months require the use of back muscles in ways that most are not accustomed to, increasing the risk for injury. Recognizing the potential for injury is the first step in prevention.
- Do not rush. Take time to decide the best way to lift things, as objects might be much heavier than they appear. Make sure you are able to handle the load, and always ask for help when moving anything heavier than what you are used to.
- Remember to maintain proper posture when standing, sitting or lifting. Avoid bending at the waist when getting ready to lift an object. Instead, bend your knees while maintaining back and head alignment. Avoid over-stretching, repetitive activities and those that require significant twisting. Steer clear of prolonged use of high-heeled shoes that might contribute to spinal misalignment.
- Stress can cause back tension and spasms, which might increase the likelihood of injuries that can take time to heal. Take a step back and relax.
Most cases of low back pain can be managed with the use of over-the-counter analgesics or anti-inflammatories, and they can be resolved without long-term effects. A physician should evaluate back pain that does not fade within three days.