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Break Free from Back Pain with These Everyday Tips from a Spine Expert

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Daily activities like sitting, moving, or lying down can become challenging if you experience back pain. Therefore, it is crucial to take preemptive measures for your back health. Maintaining a healthy back doesn’t require extraordinary measures; small changes in your daily habits can help keep your back in good shape.

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Firstly, it’s essential to change your posture frequently. Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned back pain rehabilitation and prevention expert, emphasizes that you shouldn’t stay in one position for too long to prevent back pain. Continuous pressure on one part of the body causes stress to accumulate in that area, weakening it and making it more susceptible to damage. This holds even if you’re sitting in a supposedly “correct” position.

To prevent stress from building, regularly change your sitting posture. McGill recommends getting up, stretching at least every 50 minutes, and taking a short walk.

Moreover, avoid exercising immediately after sitting for a long time. Prolonged sitting can cause your spine to curve forward, stretch the ligaments in the back, and push the disc’s nucleus backward, adapting to this position. Exercising immediately in this state can cause the displaced disc to protrude or expose the spine to significant shock.

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This also applies to the period right after a long sleep. While awake, the discs in the spine are slowly compressed under body weight, causing us to appear about 0.4 to 0.8 inches shorter in the evening than in the morning. During sleep, the discs are replenished with fluid, resulting in a 240% increase in pressure just after waking up before bedtime.

This heightened pressure makes the spine area more prone to injury from even slight strain, making immediate exercise risky.

For optimal spinal health, it’s recommended to start exercising an hour after waking up or start after about 30 minutes of light walking.

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The third habit is to engage your hips instead of your back. McGill emphasizes that using your hips can better protect your spine. A bent posture that fails to maintain spinal neutrality exerts about ten times more shear force on the spine than a posture that keeps the spinal neutral and utilizes the strength of the hip joints.

In everyday life, when lifting objects, you should keep a neutral spine as if you’re squatting, relying on your hip and knee joints instead of your back. This practice can reduce the risk of back injury.

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The fourth habit is to avoid twisting your waist. McGill explains that the lumbar spine is designed for stability, whereas the thoracic spine, located above it, is designed for mobility.

Since the lumbar spine is not designed for twisting, doing so can strain it. Instead, twisting motions should involve the thoracic spine while simultaneously using the arms and legs to create supportive force.

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