6 steps to better back and spine health
You exercise and eat right to keep your heart in good shape. You read and do Sudoku to help your brain stay sharp. But are you taking steps to preserve your back and spine health?
Up to 90 percent of people experience spinal pain at some point or another according to the American Chiropractic Association. While genetics and family history play a role there are steps you may be able to take to reduce spine-related problems explains Hon Vien D.O. an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Reid Orthopedic Center. Certain lifestyle changes can help you improve your spine health reduce or prevent back pain and enable you to do more of the things you enjoy.
6 tips for a healthy spine
- Stay active
Exercising keeps your back muscles strong while being sedentary can leave you feeling stiff and weak. Low-impact exercises such as walking swimming bicycling and yoga have been shown to be effective says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. If you're not sure which activity is right for you talk with your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight puts stress on your back which can lead to pain. If you're overweight talk to your doctor about taking steps to make that number on the scale fall within a healthy range for your body type.
- Remember your posture
Try to sit or stand with your head up and your back straight. Avoid slouching which strains your neck and shoulders.
- Lift carefully
Always bend at your knees — not your waist — to pick up items from the floor or table. Avoid twisting which can hurt your spine. If something is too heavy to lift on your own get help.
- Sleep comfortably
If you like sleeping on your back place a pillow underneath your knees to relieve pressure on your spine. If you like sleeping on your side reduce spinal pressure by keeping a pillow between your knees.
- Quit smoking
Smoking makes it harder for your body to recover from injuries including back and spine injuries says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Plus smoker's cough can cause back pain. Your doctor can help you kick the habit — Reid can provide you with the resources you need to get started.
Help for back pain
If you start to experience backaches or discomfort talk with your doctor about the best way to find relief. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases possible treatments include the following:
- Hot or cold packs. Both can help reduce inflammation which may help minimize discomfort.
- Medications. Over-the-counter and prescription options such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics alleviate pain but due to their side effects they shouldn't be used long-term.
- Physical therapy and strengthening exercises. A prescribed regimen of PT and exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture can help you bounce back from an injury faster.
- Spinal manipulation and massage. Chiropractic techniques and massage therapy can also serve to ease discomfort.
Your doctor can help you determine the right options for you.
What to do when the back pain won't quit
If medication and lifestyle changes aren't enough to improve your back pain you and your doctor may have to discuss spinal surgery. Thanks to new technologies this isn't as daunting as it once was. Some spine procedures are minimally invasive resulting in a much quicker surgery and healing process. Using tools like robotic guiding systems and specialized dilators spinal surgeons like Dr. Vien make smaller incisions and perform spine surgeries more quickly so patients spend less time in the operating room.
"There's less pain faster recovery lower infection rates and less time spent under anesthesia" says Dr. Vien who's performed these procedures on hundreds of patients.