After a person has successfully completed a course of treatment, one of the first questions they ask me is: “How do I prevent back and neck pain from happening again?” Most of the time, there seems to be no specific thing that happened to cause the pain in the first place. And that is very frustrating for the patient, because if you don’t know what caused it, how can you prevent back and neck pain from happening again, right? But usually, if you take a good look at how you have been working, sitting, walking, sleeping, etc., you can find some contributing factors.
How do I prevent the pain I am having?
The root of the problem may have been there for months or even years but was just not symptomatic yet. Then something changes in the way you do some activity of your life that triggers the pain, spasms, inflammation, and disability. In order prevent back and neck pain, one should avoid:
- Bad posture (habitual slouching)
- Lack of daily exercise
- Sitting too long at one time (more than 15 minutes) without getting up and moving
- Sitting in a soft couch or chair too often or sitting with legs crossed at the knee
- Bending at the waist to pick things up instead of using bent knees and hip hinge squatting
- Sleeping on the stomach instead of on the back or side with an appropriately sized pillow that keeps your neck straight
- Lack of good QUALITY and QUANTITY of sleep (you should be sleeping straight for 6-9 hours)
- Eating too much and being overweight or obese
- Eating inflammatory foods
- Spending too much time in a repetitive activity (raking, vacuuming, digging, wrapping gifts, etc.) in a bad position without taking relief breaks every 10-15 minutes
This list is obviously not exhaustive, but these are the top 10 that come to mind. There are other factors that you just cannot control such as hereditary conditions, previous traumas and accidents, and acquired systemic illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis.
Preventative chiropractic is key.
One of the most important proactive things you can do is to make sure you get periodic chiropractic adjustments.* Many times I find areas in the spine that are painful to the touch, yet my patient did not even know it was sore. That is the best time to fix it – before it turns into a full-blown, spasming, disabling pain.
*Senna MK, Machaly SA. Does maintained spinal manipulation therapy for chronic nonspecific low back pain result in better long-term outcome? Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011 Aug 15;36(18):1427-37. on PubMed