Health Watch -- Protect your Back

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Back injuries are common, but they don't have to be inevitable.

Just about everyone suffers a back injury at some time, but doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it doesn't have to be that way. With a little effort and some safety precautions, you can prevent or minimize most back injuries.

Many spine injuries happen in car accidents. Owning a car with air bags and using seatbelts whenever you're in the car can help prevent spine damage. Even passengers in the back seat should wear seatbelts. Studies have shown that unrestrained back-seat passengers thrown forward in a crash may worsen the injuries of people in the front seat.

Dr. Noor Gajraj, a pain management specialist at UT Southwestern, says another way to avoid back injuries is to stay in shape. Keeping your weight under control and maintaining a regular exercise routine provide the foundation for protecting your spine. Good posture, flexibility and strong back and abdominal muscles can go a long way toward preventing back injuries.

You can also protect your back by taking safety precautions when lifting. Try to avoid lifting heavy objects, and don't bend over to lift anything heavy. Instead, bend your legs and use your strong leg muscles to help lift the weight. That takes the stress off your back. You should also avoid twisting motions when lifting heavy weights.

Finally, if you've had a back injury, talk to your doctor about pain management and physical therapy techniques that may help.


May 2004