Preventative Care

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Preventative Care
Smoking Cessation

Smoking can be a contributing factor to back pain. Talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program that is right for you.


  • Be committed. Keep in mind why you want to quit and stay motivated.
  • Get help from your doctor and continue to follow up with your doctor, especially during the first month.
  • Choose a firm date to quit and mark your calendar. Choose a time that is not particularly stressful and that does not involve situations associated with smoking.
  • Begin to cut back prior to your quit date.
  • Consider joining a support group of ex-smokers or other stop-smoking programs such as those offered by the American Lung Association or the American Cancer Society.
  • Tell friends, family, and coworkers that you are quitting smoking so that they can offer motivation and support.
  • Remove smoking from your environment. Avoid places where people congregate to smoke. Remove cigarettes from your car, home, and work.
  • Anticipate that you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cigarette cravings, anxiety, irritability, and restlessness, even with nicotine replacement or drug treatment. These symptoms usually peak at 1 to 3 weeks after quitting but generally become manageable within a few weeks.
  • Eat a healthy diet and stay active in order to help with stress and to minimize weight gain
Weight Control

There are many ill effects of being overweight, and losing excessive weight should be a goal for anyone who suffers from back pain. However, some of us were born with a metabolism that results in a tendency to carry more weight than others, or the changes that are required to loose weight are just too difficult to make.

Unfortunately, being overweight places greater stresses on the spinal column, and it is clearly associated with a greater risk of having back pain. There is no question that if you are overweight and have back pain that you will benefit from weight reduction.

The best way to begin is with gentle aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming or bicycling. Many new indoor trainers (such as elliptical runners and stairmasters) feature ways of exercising that minimize the amount of stress that is placed on the joints of overweight people. This may be a good place to start.

Overall Health

A healthy lifestyle and maintaining overall good health goes a long way in helping to prevent back pain and spine problems. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, with sufficient intake of calcium, Vitamin D and phosphorus. (Phosphate makes up more than half the mass of bone mineral; Vitamin D helps maintain appropriate calcium/phosphorus levels. When phosphorus is too high, the body takes calcium out of the bones to bind with the phosphorus and remove it from the blood. Bones become brittle as a result.)
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use.
  • Maintain a healthy weight‚ additional pounds place excess strain on spinal vertebrae and discs.
  • Stay well-hydrated. The body is 70% water, and sufficient hydration contributes to intervertebral disc health and that of other back related structures and functions.
  • Get your vision checked. Poor vision can affect the way you carry yourself, which can contribute to back problems.
Regular Exercise

While many doctors will tell you that exercise is definitely an important part of your overall good health and well-being, many people who have a sore back think of exercise as the last thing that they would want to do, and they often wonder how exercise would make a painful back feel better. Think of the muscles of the trunk and spine as being analogous to the supporting wires of a sailboat mast. If the mast does not have any supporting wires, it is very flimsy and likely to topple over. Without any support, it will be unable to withstand the forces of the wind in the sails and the entire structure is likely to fail. The muscles that surround the spinal column serve a similar purpose. They help to balance the spine during normal activities and athletic exercise and prevent the weight of the body from being carried by the spine in a harmful way. The stronger and better conditioned these muscles are, the more support there is for the spine, which results in better balancing of the loads that the spine must carry during daily life.

View Exercises

Body Mechanics

When Standing

  • Place feet shoulder width apart, don’t lock your knees;
  • Avoid arching your lower back or slumping your upper back and shoulders;
  • Keep your breastbone up, shoulder blades down;
  • Keep your chin level, relax jaw and neck muscles.

When Sitting

  • Rest your feet on floor with knees and hips bent 90 degrees;
  • Maintain a neutral arch in your lower back;
  • Keep your breastbone up, shoulder blades down;
  • Keep your chin level, relax jaw and neck muscles.

When Driving

  • Adjust your seat so that the back is vertical. Your back should be supported by the seat back and your head should rest against headrest with your chin level;
  • Knees should be bent, and at least at the same height as your hips;
  • Elbows should be slightly bent and relaxed, with your shoulders down.

When Sleeping

  • Use a firm mattress. Placing a board between the mattress and box spring can provide a temporary fix for one that is sagging.
  • Lie on your back or side. When lying on the side, a pillow between the knees helps maintain a neutral spine.
  • Use a cervical roll (a foam roll approximately 3 inches in diameter and 18 inches long) to support the natural curves in your neck or low back.