Mackie Shilstone / East Jefferson General Hospital

Back pain is one of the most common and significant musculoskeletal problems in the world. In 1993, back disorders accounted for 27% of all nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in the United States. The economic costs of low back disorders are staggering. In a recent study, the average cost of a workers' compensation claim for a low back disorder was $8,300, which was more than twice the average cost of $4,075 for all compensable claims combined.

Here are my top 5 ways to help keep your back healthy.

  1. Stay Fit Stretch and strengthen the core, specifically the obliques, the thighs and the buttocks muscles. This can help reduce the incidence of mechanical (non traumatic) low back pain. Stretching these areas can elongate these muscles that may have become shorter with age and deconditioning. Aerobic exercises like stationary or regular biking, swimming and walking are low risk, high return exercises for low back pain prevention.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight The waist-to-height ratio (waist measurement in inches, divided by your height) should be 42-49% in women and 43-53% in men. Also the Body Mass Index should be in the 23-25 range.
  3. Kick the Habit - Smoking increases the risk to low back pain in two ways. First, nicotine hampers blood flow to the vertebrae and discs. Second, smokers tend to lose bone at a faster rate than non smokers.
  4. Lighten Your Load - Backpackers at school, work or play may be at higher back pain risk based on inability to manage the load transfer of the back pack which causes muscle fatigue. Cary the weight using two straps and not over one shoulder, carry only the essentials, and look for padded straps.
  5. Develop Back-Healthy Habits -When standing, try and support your weight while performing tasks like ironing with one foot on a small stool. Change position when sitting or standing for prolonged time periods. When bending from the waist, always use hands for support. When sitting, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips and keep them bent at 90 degrees. Use a book if your feet do not reach the floor when sitting, for support.

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