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Keep the Back Pain Away

Tips for Preventing Back or Neck Pain

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Updated December 04, 2007

Simple things can work wonders when it comes to keeping your spine healthy. This is called preventative maintenance, and its equivalent is an old saying you may have heard: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

1. Develop Body Awareness

The body is an interrelated machine - an aberration in one part will diminish function in other areas. (This is called the kinetic chain.) Postural alignment is the science of how the parts of the body relate to the whole form. When it is ideal, bones are centered and balanced with respect to one another, freeing muscles from spasm, and allowing them to do their job of moving the body.

Take note of how the muscles, bones and joints feel in response to various activities. Does sitting cause your back to feel differently than walking? How do your muscles feel when you wake up in the morning? Answering questions such as these will help you trace the effects of your movements on your back, allowing you to make efficient movement choices.

2. Strengthen Your Core

The abdominal and back muscles work together to hold the trunk upright. The action of these muscle groups balance one another to support this area. Weak or tight torso muscles, along with any strength imbalances between them, can be the precursor to back injuries. Core strengthening programs, such as Pilates, yoga, and water exercise (to name just a few) are excellent ways to build up your trunk muscles.

3. Use Your Body Well

If you are like most people, you perform certain activites many times during the course of the day. But have you stopped to consider whether you are doing them in a mechanically efficient way? Over time, most routine daily activites become a matter of habit. If you repeatedly do chores from non-neutral positions, that is, you use muscles when bones could do a better job, you may be setting yourself up for injury and/or back strain.

Learning and practicing proper body mechanics is often a matter of unlearning ways of doing things to which you are accustomed, but that may also be stressful to your joints. This is especially true when lifting heavy objects or reaching for something.

4. Be Active and Exercise

Research has shown there are many kinds of activities that help decrease and/or prevent back pain. Exercise builds muscle tone and increases flexibility. It is quite often a component of rehab programs given by physical therapists and back specialists.

Doing back exercises, along with making an effort to sensibly increase your activity levels can help you prevent or manage your back pain. Of course, you should ask your doctor first, to be sure you do not run the risk of making injuries or condition-specific matters worse.

Preventative maintenance means not only doing your back exercises, but also taking frequent breaks from the computer or desk, stretching, walking more (even when you don't have to), and other activities.

5. Breathe

Did you know that the same muscles that enable you to breathe also function as posture muscles? Breathing exercises taken from martial arts, yoga, Pilates and singing technique can all be of value in developing a strong core and a healthy postural alignment. Core muscles are responsible for good posture. If your spinal bones are aligned, and your trunk muscles are flexible and strong, your posture will easily hold upright against gravity, and enable you to perform movements fluidly.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

A healthy back is the working combination of nerves, muscles, bones and more. But being overweight puts pressure on these structures. If you maintain a healthy weight for your height, you decrease your risk of back pain. Research has linked overweight with an increased risk of disk and other back problems.

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