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Most people will experience some form of back pain in their lives. A 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) revealed that more than 65.8 million Americans already suffer from low back pain. Orthopedic surgeons treat back and spine conditions using both operative and non-operative methods. Dr. Michael Geliber, orthopedic spine surgeon and spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, believes certain everyday habits may exacerbate back pain. “It’s important to identify some of those behaviors, avoid them, and adapt healthy ones,” he said in a press release. The AAOS offers the following five tips for preventing back pain and reducing the risk of injury.

Strengthen Your Core

Exercise regularly to strengthen your core muscles. If you suffer from acute back pain, avoid strenuous exercise. You should, however, continue to move around as much as possible. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, consider swapping your chair for a stability ball. Sitting on a stability ball forces you to engage your core and joint stabilizing muscles. It also allows your hips to rest in a more neutral position, with your legs sloping over the side of the ball rather than rigidly bent. 

Use Proper Lifting Form

If you must lift a heavy object, be sure to use proper lifting technique. Bend from the knees, not the waist. Don’t twist your body when lifting. Instead, point your toes in the direction you want to go, then turn your whole body in that direction. Don’t ever rush to lift a heavy item. If it’s too heavy or awkwardly shaped, ask for help. If possible, avoid lifting heavy items altogether.

Correct Your Posture

Good posture is essential to preventing future back problems. Make sure your ears are in line with your shoulders and hips. Your upper arms should be relaxed and rest close to the body. Your wrists should be in line with your forearms.

Stop Smoking

Premature aging of the spine is one of the many conditions associated with tobacco use. If you smoke, stop. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight 

People with obesity are at risk for many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Obesity also plays an important role in back pain. Excess body weight places stress on the lower back, causing injury. Speak with your doctor about maintaining a healthy weight.  

It may not be possible to eliminate back pain completely, but changing certain habits can reduce the impact of lower back problems. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a good start. If your back pain is severe, book a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon. He or she can suggest a course of treatment to reduce pain and restore mobility so you can go back to leading an independent, productive life.

For more information on treatments for lower back pain, click here.