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Back Pain Health Center

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How to Wreck Your Back

You may be setting yourself up for back pain. Find out how to stop it before it starts.

Back Wrecker #3: Absentmindedness During Daily Activity

Simple tasks like taking out the trash or washing the dishes can get your spine bent out of shape if your body isn't ready.

"The movement doesn't necessarily have to be exaggerated or involve a heavy object," Hisey says. "You can hurt your back grabbing a paperclip off the floor or loading the dishwasher."

And if your mind is running on auto-pilot instead of focusing on what you're doing, you could be in trouble.

"At UPS, we've seen a higher proportion of injuries occur at the end of the shift, due to fatigue of the mind and body," McMackin says.

Prevent it: Train yourself to keep your core muscles engaged.

A simple way to do that is to pull your navel toward your spine and imagine you're wearing a corset that pulls the sides of your abs inward. Doing that throughout the day -- and especially when lifting or bending -- strengthens and supports your back, says Esther Gokhale, author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back and owner of Esther Gokhale Wellness Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Back Wreckers #4 and #5: Commuting and Computing

You sit, and you sit, and you sit some more -- at work, while driving, and in front of the TV. And your back doesn't like it. Here's why.

Your discs are spongy and cushion the vertebrae in your spine, but discs have poor blood supply, Hisey says. When you move, fluid circulates through the discs. When you sit still, the fluid is wrung out, so you're depriving discs of nutrition, he says. Spending so much time behind the wheel of a car or sitting in front of a computer adds mileage to our discs, which leads to stress in your back.

"The discs in your spine are nourished by motion," Hisey says. "So sitting still is hard on your back and neck, and can do long-term damage." Studies have also shown that sitting puts more pressure on your spine than lying down or standing up.

"The worst posture is sitting and leaning forward," Shamie says. This makes you lock your pelvis and flex your spine, putting pressure on the front of the vertebrae, where your discs are. The more you arch forward and exaggerate the curve of the spine, the more pressure you're putting on your discs. "This uneven pressure on a disc puts it at high risk of rupture," Shamie explains.

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