(New York -- Dec. 29, 2008) -- Back pain is the most disabling pain experienced by Americans and, according to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of ten people will suffer from it at some time.
But since most back pain is caused by stressed and damaged muscles, there are steps you can take to help prevent it, says pain specialist Norman Marcus, M.D. who is noted for his pioneering work in eliminating back pain without resorting to surgery and mind-altering drugs.
Dr. Marcus, who is dedicated to pain elimination (as opposed to pain management), is Clinical Associate Professor in Anesthesiology and Psychiatry and Director of Muscle Pain Research at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine, a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and founder and medical director of the Norman Marcus Pain Institute.
Here are ten tips from Dr. Marcus to help you prevent back pain in 2009.
1. Your bed does matter. Your muscles require movement to stay healthy and some tossing and turning at night is actually good for you. A sagging mattress that’s lost its resilience inhibits the body’s normal inclination to gently move around during sleep and should be replaced.
2. What you do in bed matters, too, says Dr. Marcus. He strongly advises against reading or watching television while lying down. He points out that when you lift your head to view the screen -- or raise your arms to hold a book -- you generate contractions that can strain your muscles and can cause pain in your neck, head or shoulders. He says the correct way to watch TV or read in bed is to sit up, with your back supported by the headboard and your knees bent.
3. Don’t just sit there. “Our muscles are meant to move,” says Dr. Marcus. Sitting at a computer for hours, or staying in any position for too long, stresses the postural muscles in your body. Try to remember to change positions frequently, even if only briefly, so that your muscles have a chance to move and recover their strength and flexibility.
4. Cross your legs. In a theatre or during a meeting where you realize you’ve been sitting for a long period, and it may not be possible to stand or move around, just cross a leg.