Prevention of low back pain

Get up and walk

Karen Miller | 1/20/2017, 9:12 a.m.
Although low back pain is very common, it may be possible to prevent it by practicing healthy lifestyles.
Master Heg Robinson teaches tai chi out of his Roxbury studio Photo by Ernesto Arroyo

Don’t smoke

Here’s another good reason not to smoke. Roughly 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer are linked to smoking or second-hand smoke. But cigarettes do a lot more damage. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, according to the American Cancer Society.

It also increases the risk of LBP. A study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that smoking, regardless of lifestyle, jobs and activity levels, increased the risk of back pain by roughly 30 percent. It is unclear how smoke affects the spine. Some researchers suggest that nicotine from tobacco might influence how the brain processes awareness of pain. Another theory is that smoking reduces the flow of nutrients to the joints and muscles of the back.

Use proper body mechanics

The spine is very strong but works more efficiently when the parts are in alignment. That’s why slouching and other forms of poor posture place undue stress on the spine. For instance, a study by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon, found that looking down at a cell phone is the equivalent of placing a 60-pound weight on one’s neck.

Improper lifting causes even more dramatic changes in the lower spine. It’s all about physics. When you lift an object the lower spine must bear the weight of the upper body as well as the weight of the object. If you lean forward when lifting you are not only changing the back’s alignment, you are moving the center of balance of the body forward. This action can exert tremendous force on the back, particularly if the object is heavy.

If you have good general health and follow these suggestions to take care of your back, you may be one of the 20 percent that manages to go through life without a painful low back.