Like most people, you probably take your back for granted — until it starts to hurt.
At which point you have lots of company. “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.
Give Your Back a Break
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.
Tips to Avoid Back Pain
That’s why prevention is so important. To help keep your back healthy and strong, Dr. Moon recommends the following:
- Sit up straight. Use good posture when sitting or standing. It improves muscle tone and makes breathing easier.
- Get active. Back and abdominal exercises strengthen the core muscles that support your back. Activities such as running, walking, and cycling strengthen bones and improve 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, hips forward, and knees bent when you lift things.
- Pay attention. If you feel back pain during any activity, stop and rest. Your body may be trying to keep you from getting hurt.
When to See a Doctor
You can relieve most back pain 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.