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How Lifestyle Can Put A Kink in Back Health

When you think of it, the human body is really cool. Especially how everything connects and works together. Like the children’s song Dem Bones teaches, all of our many parts, directly or indirectly, are connected to our spine, which is why we use the phrase “the backbone” of something to refer to, as Merriam-Webster defines it, “…the most substantial or sturdiest part of something”.

This means, though, that when something hurts, whether it’s our neck, back, head, or our legs…it can sometimes be traced back to…well…our back. And amazingly,  around 80 percent of people in the US suffer from back pain, and a third of those report that it negatively impacts everyday life. Not only that, but it’s expensive—approximately $50 billion a year is spent on back pain treatment alone.

The spine is a complex structure from which everything else branches, and for this reason, it’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of our aches and pains, particularly if they aren’t localized to our neck or back. (Side note: For the rest of this article, we’ll keep it simple and just refer to any pain affecting the spine as “back pain.)

The best treatment for back pain is…

Prevention! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for most back pain, the best way to treat it is to prevent it altogether. How, you ask? Well first, let’s look at some of the most common causes of back pain.

Most back pain is caused by (but not limited to):

  • Age (can’t help that one…thanks a lot, Father Time)
  • Fitness (by the way, even if you’re ‘fit’, poor form during exercise can also cause back pain)
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor posture
  • Improper lifting technique
  • Footwear

Given a list like this one, you can see the presence and/or severity of most aches and pains are actually within our control, so let’s find out how.

How to prevent back pain

Taking our cue from the above list, here are some of the tried-and-true best ways to prevent back pain, starting NOW:

  • For age – Find the fountain of youth (and if you already found it, how DARE you not share it with the rest of us); another option is to take action now to cultivate healthier habits that will help minimize the normal wear-and-tear we can expect as we inevitably grow older
  • For fitness – Try to make a point of working some physical activity into each day, or at least 2-3 times a week, making sure to research any exercise before you perform it to ensure you’re doing it correctly in order to prevent injury
  • For pregnancy – While it can’t be completely avoided, there are ways to minimize back pain during pregnancy, and fortunately, it tends to resolve itself postpartum
  • For posture – It was annoying, but grandma was on to something; slouching is a big no-no if you want to avoid back pain, so make a point to be more mindful of and practice better posture, and if needed, try some simple exercises to straighten out that slouch
  • For lifting technique – Most people are familiar with the “lift with your legs, not with your back” rule, but there’s a whole process to proper lifting to ensure you do it safely
  • For footwear – Looking good shouldn’t be at the expense of our backs, and sadly, shoes can be a major source of back pain, so save the fancy steppin’-out shoes for special occasions and wear supportive footwear the rest of the time

As everything in the body is connected to the spine, the remedies to protect against back pain all tie back to one central theme—adoption of a healthier lifestyle, focused on improving posture, incorporating proper exercise, and being more mindful about simple things like how we lift heavy objects or the shoes we wear. So take care of dem bones, and don’t let your back become your weakest link.