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Sitting is the New Smoking: 5 Tips to Avoid Back Pain

What is one of the worst things you can do to your body?

Thirty years ago, for many people the answer might have been “smoking”. Today, the answer is quite different: sitting for a large portion of the day. “There are a high number of jobs today that require little more activity than walking to the coffeemaker to get a refill,” said Advance ER emergency physician Dr. James Dennington. “Over time, this sedentary lifestyle destroys the integrity of back muscles.”

Back pain is one of the leading causes for missed days at work and visits to the emergency room. Often, rest is the only way to combat the pain that can be sharp and piercing or dull and throbbing. No one wants to be sidelined with a bad back, so what are some things almost everyone can do to avoid back pain? Here are five tips for a healthy back:

Examine Your Chair

If you are still sitting for ten hours a day on an old task chair that wobbles and tilts, it is time to consider an upgrade. An ideal chair provides back support and is adjustable so you can make sure your knees are slightly higher than your hips to reduce stress on your lower back. Sitting causes three times more stress on your back than standing, so consider ways to stand during the day, take breaks to walk around, or perhaps look into buying a standing desk.

Invest in Your Shoes

Shoes support the lower back and need to be comfortable, flexible, well-fitted and provide stability. You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort. Try an insert designed for lower back support in your cute flats. And don’t forget to throw away shoes that are broken down so you aren’t tempted to wear them “one last time”.

Strengthen Your Core

Core exercises are designed to strengthen the abs and the lower back and will go a long way in helping you keep strong, fit back muscles. Fortunately, many core exercises can be done with no additional equipment, so they are fast and cost nothing but a few minutes. “There are several core exercises that can be done right at your desk throughout the day to keep your muscles tight and your back supported,” said Dr.Dennington.

Smart Stretching

Make the most of the minutes you have at break time to apply some back stretches. If you have tight hamstrings, your lower back will suffer. A careful hamstring stretch may ease the tension in your back. Try putting your hands on your hips and leaning backwards for five seconds. “Staying flexible helps the spine and neck stay healthy and move properly,” said Dr. Dennington. “If you can work stretches into your day, your back will thank you.”

Water Your Back Every Day

Staying hydrated is important for good spinal function. Water contributes to the fluidity of the spine’s movements, the cushion provided by the discs and the elasticity of the connective tissues. “When you are dehydrated, your spine suffers and your discs can even bulge and become susceptible to painful conditions,” said Dr. Dennington.

By keeping these five habits, you can take steps towards protecting your back’s health and sidestepping back pain. “It’s well worth the effort,” said Dr. Dennington.

However, accidents do happen and back pain is not always avoidable. At Advance ER, we’re here to provide you with the emergency care that you need when your back fights back. We accept most insurance plans and you can call today to make sure your provider is on our list.

Meet Dr. James Alan Dennington:

James Dennington, M.D., is board-certified in emergency medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Dallas, TX. He specializes in emergency medicine, injury prevention and the diagnosis of sudden illness. Dr. Dennington has been providing quality medical care for a decade for patients of all ages.