According to the American Chiropractic Association, approximately 31 million Americans are experiencing some level of back pain right at this moment.
Unfortunately though, back pain isn’t just a major issue in the U.S.—it is the top ranking cause of disability around the globe. That makes protecting its health a priority.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, if you want to do what you can to reduce your risk of adding to these all-too-high statistics, following these seven basic healthy back tips.
1. Watch your posture
Perhaps the easiest thing you can do when it comes to having a healthy back is pay attention to your posture while you are sitting, standing, and walking. Your shoulders should be back and down, your head looking forward, and your pelvis tilted slightly in. If you work at a desk job, having an ergonomically correct desk and chair can help with this, as well.
2. Lift with your legs
Bend down with your knees and use your legs muscles to lift something versus bending over at the hips and using the muscles in your back. This applies to both heavy and light items, as both have the ability of causing back-related pain.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that obese individuals are four times more likely to suffer from back pain than a person who is at a healthy weight. The academy also points out that your risk of back pain increases with your weight, which means that even minor weight loss is enough to lower your back pain risk. Ideally, you want your body mass index (BMI) to be under 25, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers an online calculator to help you determine yours.
4. Give up cigarettes
Research conducted by Northwestern University revealed “that smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain.” Fortunately, quitting reduces your risk. Certainly, this isn’t always easy to do, but the American Cancer Society offers a Guide to Quitting Smoking that just may help.
5. Engage in regular physical exercise
Build the muscles in your core (your abdomen and back) via regular physical exercise, and they will likely be strong enough to help support your posture while you engage in the activities you enjoy most. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you do strength training exercises at least twice a week on non-consecutive days to achieve this goal.
6. Sleep on a good mattress
In an interview with WebMD, Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, advised choosing a mattress that properly supports your body. This generally means avoiding mattresses that are either too soft or too firm, as you want to support the natural curvature of your body.
7. See a chiropractor
Most people think of going to a chiropractor after being in pain, but the reality is that regular chiropractic visits are just as important when it comes to preventing health issues as going to the dentist semi-annually or seeing your family doctor for a physical once a year. To find one in your area, the American Chiropractic Association has an online searchable directory that lists their members.
Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Take care of your back today, and it will take care of you tomorrow.