According to the American College of Rheumatology, back pain strikes nearly as often as the common cold—in fact, nearly 80 percent of people in the world develop back pain. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your back healthy and keep back pain away.
A car accident, a sports injury, and lifting a heavy object are obvious causes of back pain. But lifestyle factors can cause back pain, too. Being overweight—especially having excess abdominal fat—strains the lower back. Lack of exercise, poor posture, and sitting too much can also weaken and stress back muscles.
Back pain can feel sharp, aching, dull, tingling, or burning. The pain comes from damaged muscles, ligaments, and nerves, or from the spine.
Acute back pain will usually go away on its own within one to six weeks. Although it might be difficult, it’s better to move about than stay in bed, as long as you take it easy. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and applying ice or hot packs can ease pain and stiffness. These measures can also help chronic back pain (pain that lasts longer than three months). Surgery is seldom needed for chronic back problems. Some people find relief with massage or chiropractic treatment. Check with your health plan to see if these services are covered.
If you suffer from ongoing back pain or frequent bouts of acute back pain, and you don’t have an underlying medical condition that’s causing it, lifestyle habits may be the problem. Follow these steps for a healthier back:
Lift safely. Bend your legs and keep your back straight.
Do aerobic exercise, stretch, and strength-train regularly.
Improve your posture. Don’t slouch or sit in one position for too long without a break.
Manage your weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
Find time to relax. Stress can aggravate back problems.
Always talk with your health care provider before starting new physical activity.