What to do about back pain
Many people know the dreaded feeling of waking up in the morning to a stiff and achy back, followed by confusion on why it’s hurting and then frantic googling on how to find relief.
“Back pain can be caused by a lot of things. Part of it is genetic and we have no control over that,” said Dr. Nicholas Hempeck, neurosurgeon at Aurora Medical Center Summit. “Often, however, it just happens. The majority of patients I work with just wake up one day and have no control over it.”
However, there are a few things you can do to help your back and spine health. And the most helpful things you can do — eating right and exercising — aren’t new, according to Dr. Hempeck.
“One thing we do have control over is weight. Overweight patients are more likely to put stress on their spine,” he said. “Modifying unhealthy lifestyle habits and poor body mechanics can help improve back pain.”
It’s also important to increase your core strength, which isn’t just doing sit-ups and focusing on your abdominal muscles— targeting the muscles in your back that actually connect to your spine are important too. For people who sit a lot during the day, taking breaks to walk and making sure you’re sitting up straight can help, too.
“Poor posture and lack of activity can contribute to back pain,” said Dr. Hempeck. “Walking and performing general aerobic exercises can improve fitness, increase pain tolerance, and of course improve general health.”
Exercise and healthy eating can help prevent you from injuring your back. If your pain isn’t getting better, or worsens with certain movements like bending or extending your back, you should seek medical care. Pain that radiates to your legs, weakness, numbness or tingling are all signs you should go in, as is any issue of urinary or bowel incontinence. If you’re experiencing any of these complications, contact your primary care doctor.
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.