Even if back pain is not an issue for you now, it is likely that you or a loved one will have back pain questions that need answering. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in their life.
Hackensack Meridian Health’s Anthony Conte, M.D., a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon specializing in complex and reconstructive spine treatment options and surgery, shares answers to five common questions about back pain.
1. Is there a way I can prevent back pain?
Although you can’t completely prevent back pain, you can reduce the frequency or intensity of back pain episodes. If you want to reduce the frequency and severity of back pain, you’ll need to strengthen your “hidden core,” which are your abdominal and back muscles. These muscles create an internal brace that stabilizes your spine and reduces back pain.
2. If my back hurts, should I limit my mobility?
This is the greatest myth of all. The key to alleviating back pain is to not only to exercise while experiencing pain, but also in between pain episodes. An easy way to strengthen your hidden core is to work out with kettlebells, a round type of dumbbell with a flat base and arced handle.
3. Will a standing desk improve my back?
Standing desks are effective if you tend to sit for an extended period of time because standing engages your core. The problem with sitting is that you have a tendency to stretch your posterior chain of muscles, hurting your interior core by causing an imbalance. However, proper seating position and frequently standing are not the sole solutions to back problems.
4. What can I do to relieve back pain?
Some ways to relieve your back pain are to lay flat on the ground and to stretch. When you lay on hard surfaces, your lower spine is in traction in that position. The pressure in your lower spine is lowest while lying flat on your back, because the disc is pushed away from the nerve, which releases the pressure.
You can also stretch by doing a hip hinge, where you place your hands on your hips and bend forward, keeping your back flat. This position helps loosen your hamstrings, which is important for reducing back pain.
5. How do I know if I need back surgery?
Every patient is different. However, the first approach will always be to look for a non-surgical solution, like core strengthening, to address spinal problems. We don’t want to over-treat our patients. In fact, we would rather try non-invasive treatments before going to surgery or using medications.
If the patient chooses to move forward with surgery due to a neurological deficit or severe pain that cannot be treated with medication or other nonsurgical solutions, we’ll use minimally-invasive techniques for a safer approach and a shorter recovery time.
The material provided by Hackensack Meridian Health is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.