October 16th is World Spine Day and the spine (also known as the vertebral column or backbone) is critical to all our body functions as it delivers messages between the brain and the rest of the body. We often don’t think about our spinal health until we experience back pain, which can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move. This can result from a fall or quick jolt or it can get progressively worse over time.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability and time missed from work worldwide. It is estimated that 80% of people will have some form of back problem in their lifetime. Although certain diseases or conditions can cause it, most cases are mechanical or non-organic. This means that there are a number of factors that can put a person at risk:

  • Age- as we get older the incidence increases
  • Poor physical fitness and sedentary lifestyle
  • Excess weight
  • Postural (like slumping or sitting for long periods)
  • Strain (like pushing or lifting heavy objects)
  • Smoking (are more likely to suffer from back pain and results in slower healing)

Prevention is always the key to helping our spine. Since we know the risk factors, anything we do to lower those risks will aid our spinal health. Maintaining a healthy weight, participating in low impact aerobic exercise and quitting smoking are all active steps we can take. Pay attention to how you stand /sit/lift, and if you must stand for long periods, place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back and alternate your feet. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests and a swivel base.  Also, keep your knees and hips level and change your position frequently.

If you must lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight — no twisting — and bend only at the knees, and hold the load close to your body. Take care of your spine, yourselves and each other.