Has your back been hurting lately — and you're not sure why? Does your back get sore after some activities that you do every day? If you experience back pain, you're not alone. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting eight out of 10 Americans at some point during their lives, as reported by the National Institutes of Health.
The good news is that most back problems can be prevented or minimized. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, making everyday activities more back friendly can help prevent back pain or ease the pain you already experience, according to Sheila A. Dugan, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Rush University Medical Center. "Most people try to blame their pain on one thing they did or didn't do, when it's usually the buildup of a number of factors that is responsible," says Dugan.
To help your back, try these adjustments in your daily life:
- When standing, keep your back straight and distribute your weight evenly between your toes and heels.
- When picking something up, take a wide stance and bend using your knees and hips instead of bending from the waist.
- When sitting, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Crossing your legs puts pressure on your lower back.
- When working at the computer, make sure the computer screen is at eye level so that you don't tilt your chin up. If you use a laptop, prop it up so that the screen is at eye level and set up an external keyboard and mouse that allows your elbows to sit at a 90 degree angle.
- When carrying a bag or purse, lighten your load so that you're carrying less than 10 percent of your body weight. (For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, your bag or purse should weigh less than 13 pounds.) If you need to carry heavy items, place them toward the bottom of the bag and alternate your bag between shoulders throughout the day.
Despite your best efforts, you still may experience back pain. Most back pain can heal over time with the help of rest, over-the-counter pain medication and the application of ice or heat. Sometimes though, back pain can be a sign of a more serious problem. "If your condition doesn't improve within a couple of weeks or it's associated with any kind of numbness or weakness in the legs, bowel problems or trouble sleeping, those are red flags, meaning that you need to see a spine expert," says Dugan.
Experts at the Spine and Back Center at Rush University Medical Center will start with a comprehensive physical exam to figure out exactly what the problem is and how best to treat it. "We will also find out what could be perpetuating your pain and address those issues," says Dugan. "Our goal is to help you lead a healthy, active, pain-free lifestyle."
To learn more about the latest treatment advances for the spine, back and neck and how you may benefit, join us for this free wellness program:
Research and Innovation for Spine, Back and Neck Treatment
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
6 to 8 p.m.
Armour Academic Center, Room 994
600 S. Paulina St.
For more information or to register, Call (888) 352-RUSH (7874) or click here to register online.
Having trouble with your back or neck?
Submit your question or request an appointment online and receive a personalized response from one of the spine and back experts at Rush University Medical Center within 72 hours.
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- For information on spine care at Rush visit the Rush Spine and Back Center home page.
- Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)
Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
If you enjoyed this article and are not already a subscriber, subscribe today to Discover Rush Online. You'll receive health information, breaking medical news and helpful tips for maintaining your health each month via e-mail.