Tips from UPMC Health Plan - Give Your Back a Break

Tips That Can Help You Avoid Back Pain.

Avoid back pain

Amazingly complex, remarkably strong, and incredibly flexible, your back is one of the most important parts of your body. Without it, you couldn’t stand up straight, walk on the beach, chase after the kids, or dance the night away.

Like most people, you probably take your back for granted — until it starts to hurt. “Eight out of 10 Americans will have back pain at some point in their lives,” says M. Melissa Moon, DO, a physician in the UPMC Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

So what’s causing all those achy backs? “Everyday habits like hunching over your computer, toting a heavy purse or backpack, or picking up a toddler are often to blame for the pain,” says Dr. Moon.

“And studies show that smokers have more back problems than non-smokers, which is another good reason to quit,” she adds.

To help keep your back healthy and strong, Dr. Moon also recommends the following:

  • Sit up straight. Use good posture when sitting or standing. That improves muscle tone and makes breathing easier.
  • Work out. Back and abdominal exercises strengthen the core muscles that support your back, while low-impact aerobics strengthens bones and improves blood flow to muscles.
  • Lose it. Being overweight puts added strain on your back muscles. Carrying weight around your midsection isn’t good for your heart either.
  • Think before lifting. Remember to keep your back straight and bend at the knees or hips when lifting something. Ask for help with a heavy load.
  • Pay attention. If you feel back pain during any activity, stop and rest. Your body may be trying to keep you from getting hurt.
  • Call the doctor. Most back pain can be relieved with self-care. However, Dr. Moon recommends that you see a doctor if:
    • You have pain after a fall or injury.
    • You have weakness, pain, or numbness in one or both legs.
    • The pain is severe and doesn’t improve with medication and rest.
    • The pain is accompanied by trouble urinating, fever, or unintentional weight loss.
    Learn more about building a healthy back.
    Source: National Institutes of Health

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