Millions of people around the world experience back pain every day. Beyond having to live with the pain itself, spine conditions can diminish our quality of life, causing us to miss out on the activities we enjoy doing and even rendering us incapable of accomplishing basic everyday activities. However, a little preventive effort could go a long way to reducing your chances of suffering from debilitating back pain. Listed below are five simple ways to keep your spine healthy and happy:

1. Maintain good posture

Correct posture is the best and most affordable way to deal with back pain. Good posture keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used correctly, thus decreasing the stress on the ligaments and preventing strain and muscular pain. Whether you are standing or sitting, always keep your shoulders back and your back straight. While sitting, avoid slouching forward or leaning back into the chair. While standing and walking, make an effort to stand tall in a balanced way and ensure your ear, mid-shoulder, hip, mid-knee and ankle are perfectly aligned.

2. Improve your sleeping habits

As much as proper posture is important while you are awake, it also plays a major role in spinal health while you are asleep. Choose a firm mattress and a box spring set that doesn’t sag and make an effort to sleep in a position that helps you preserve the curve in your back, such as on your back with a lumbar roll under your lower back or a pillow under your knees, or on your side with your knees slightly bent. Avoid sleeping on the side with your knees pulled up to your chest and never sleep on your stomach, as it could put too much pressure on your spine and cause back and neck strain.

3. Seek professional help

Having minor back pain every once in a while due to improper posture or ergonomics should not be a major concern. However, a visit to the doctor is necessary if you have strong, sharp or reoccurring back pain. When back trauma and injuries are left untreated, much more serious complications can develop, some even requiring surgery. Luckily, spine surgeries aren’t as invasive as they used to be – world-renowned surgeons such as Timothy Steel have websites filled with educational videos about the procedures and similar case studies. The idea of surgery may be intimidating, but with today’s technology and doctor’s expertise, you are guaranteed to have a positive experience that will result in a pain-free life.

4. Try aerobic exercise

Low-impact aerobic exercise is the best way to knock out back pain without a pill – it relieves back pain by keeping the spine mobile and functional and by improving blood flow to the spinal structures, thus increasing the amount of nutrients that reach the spine. Exercise walking is a great aerobic exercise to start with. Unlike everyday walking, this type of exercise is faster paced with the goal of elevating the heart rate and gently working the muscles. It is much gentler on the spine than jogging and it doesn’t require any special equipment or location – exercise walking can be done inside, such as on a treadmill or in a mall, or outdoors, such as on a hiking trail or around the neighborhood.

5. Embrace ergonomics

Many spinal conditions, such as back stiffness, carpal tunnel and sciatica, can be alleviated with proper ergonomics. In order to reduce the stress to both your lower and your upper back, make sure your workplace, and even your car, is set up for your specific needs. Opt for a chair which can be height regulated and which provides proper lumbar support. While sitting, distribute your weight evenly on both hips, keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and let your feet lay flat on the floor. But no matter how ergonomic your furniture is, sitting in the same position for long periods of time causes your muscles to tighten and become immobile. So, avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes and take regular breaks, get up and take a walk around your home or your office.

Maintaining good spine health is easier that you think. By incorporating these small changes into your life, your pain levels will decrease, your mobility increase and your overall health and quality of life will improve.

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