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Preventing back pain – be kind to your spine

Most people suffer from back pain at some point in their life – lower back pain is one of the most common causes of serious limitation of activity, taking days off work and visits to the doctor. However, we seldom think about the need to keep our spines healthy and this is why the theme for this year’s World Spine Day on 16 October is “Get spine active”.

Your spine is one of the most important parts of your body. It’s the pillar which supports your body from just below the skull down to the hip. With the 24 bony vertebrae, separated by joints, it allows you to move and bend. It also protects the spinal cord which is made up of the nerve fibres which transport all the messages between your brain and the rest of your body.

The vertebrae are held together and strengthened by ligaments, tendons and muscles. While the spine can be damaged by disease conditions and in accidents, most back pain is mechanical – related to how we use, or don’t use our backs.

One of the best ways to prevent back pain is to keep your back muscles strong by being active, including when you do have a painful back. This doesn’t mean that you that have to go do the gym every day – just move more. Walk instead of drive, take the stairs instead of the lift, and move around while you’re talking on the phone. If you sit at work all day making sure that your chair supports your back and take regular breaks to stretch, stand or move around.

Sudden severe back pain is often caused by heavy pushing or lifting, and especially if you twist your body while doing this. If you have to lift or push a heavy object make sure that you don’t do it with your back – bend your knees and use your leg muscles.

Other ways to be kind to your back are to maintain a healthy weight, wear low-heeled, comfortable shoes, walk and sit up straight, and sleep on a good, firm mattress.

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