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5 Best Practices for Protecting Your Back in the New Year (and Beyond)

If you're reading this, the odds are good that you have some experience with back pain — an experience you’d rather not repeat or at least keep to a minimum. You're not alone — about 65 million people in the United States have wrestled with back pain recently.

As people resolve to make some positive changes in their lives with the new year, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants wants to make the case for including your spine. To that end, Dr. Michael Hennessy, Dr. Chester Donnally, Dr. Heidi Lee, Dr. Andrew Park, and Dr. Robert Viere pulled together a list of best practices they wish all our patients would consider.

1. Sit less

As humans have transitioned to more sedentary lifestyles, the effects of too much sitting are being felt everywhere, but significantly in your spine. We know that people refer to sitting as “Taking a load off,” but we’re here to tell you that this action accomplishes quite the opposite. When you sit, you place between 20% and 40% more pressure on your lumbar spine than when you stand.

So, if you want to avoid back pain, especially in your lower back, we recommend that you find ways to stand up and move more. A good technique is to get up from sitting at least once an hour, move around, and stretch.

2. Mind your posture

Whether you’re seated or standing, it’s important to keep your spine in as neutral a position as possible so that no one section is under too much strain. Start by pulling your shoulders back and then arch your back. Now, release the arch by about 10-15%, which should get your spine to neutral.

If you’re sitting a good deal, also ensure that both feet are firmly on the floor (no crossing your legs).

3. How your sleep matters

Believe it or not, the time you spend sleeping may not be doing your back any favors if you have a poor sleep position or sleep environment.

First, we recommend not sleeping on your stomach, which can put your spine in an awkward position.

Second, ensure your mattress strikes a good balance between firm and soft — you want your spine to be as straight as possible when you sleep. You should also use pillows that don’t crank your head up, which can stress your neck and upper back.

4. Strengthen your back

One of the best ways to fight back against back pain is to spend some time strengthening the muscle groups that support your spine, including your:

For a great list of exercises to get you started, click here.

5. Lose excess pounds

Losing weight tops many New Year’s resolution lists, including ours for improved spine health. If you’re carrying too many pounds, your spine takes on much of this added burden, leaving it vulnerable to premature wear-and-tear issues like degenerative disc disease, as well as strains and sprains.

So, if losing weight is on your list of resolutions, your back will most certainly benefit.

Aside from the great best practices we outlined above, we also recommend that you see for us an evaluation of your spine health so that we can identify any areas of concern and point you in the right direction.

To get started, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to schedule an appointment. 

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