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Avoid Back Pain?, Follow These Tips

back-pain# Downsize your pillows

“Sleeping with two or three pillows under your neck can strain your muscles,” says Jessica Shellock, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute.

# Learn how to lift

You know to hoist heavy objects using your legs, not your back. But what about a very light object?

Answer: Lean over it, slightly bend one knee, and extend the other leg behind you. Hold onto a chair or table for support.

# Don’t smoke

A 2010 review of 40 studies found that smokers have more low back pain than nonsmokers, possibly because smoking reduces blood flow to the spine, says Dr. Rao.

# Wear soft soles

“If your shoe has little cushioning, every time your foot strikes concrete, you’ll jar the bones and muscles in your low back,” says Raj Rao, MD, vice chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. (That holds true for flats as well as heels.)

# Stand tall

Imagine a line coming down through your body from the ceiling, says physical therapist Renée Garrison.

Your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees should all stack up along that line, with your head stacked directly atop your neck, not jutting forward.

# Sit pretty

You don’t need a fancy ergonomically designed office chair, but you should have one that provides good support so that your back is curved like an S, not a C, says Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, director of the spine service at the New York University Langone Medical Center.

Every half hour, get up and walk around for a few seconds to take some of the stress off your back.