Four Simple Ways To Prevent Back Pain

Millions of Americans suffer from back pain each year.  Recent data shows that back pain is the third most common reason for patient visits each year, and the second most common reason for disability claims. Here are a few simple ways to keep your back healthy, strong and pain-free!


           One of the most common mechanisms for back injuries is lifting a heavy object and twisting at the same time -- whether it’s hoisting a heavy box at work, heaving a suitcase into an overhead bin on an airplane, or lifting a toddler who’s excited to see you!  To prevent this common back injury, when you’re lifting a heavy object, bend at your knees while keeping your spine straight, and lift straight up. If you need to move a heavy object to the side, plant your feet and pivot your hips to move it to the side. By moving in two separate motions (directly up or down, followed by moving side to side), you’re more likely to keep your spine injury-free.


           A common reason for back pain is that millions of Americans work sedentary jobs.  As homo sapiens, we were designed to stand erect. However, sedentary jobs (like sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day) compromise the natural position of our spines, causing our shoulders to hunch forward, and our hips to be folded at 90 degrees for hours on end.  Patients who sit in front of the computer for hours on end usually end up with tight muscles in their neck and upper shoulders, as well as muscle tension in their lower back and hips. To avoid this common cause of back pain, make sure you stand up, walk, and stretch for a few minutes every hour to reset your posture and bring your spine back into a healthy alignment.


         Your spine is held in alignment by columns of muscles called the paraspinous muscles, which begin at your neck (the cervical spine) and end where your lower back (the lumbar spine) meets your hips.  The more weight you carry on your body, the harder your paraspinous muscles have to work to keep your spine in its proper alignment. Research has shown that the more extra weight you carry on your frame, the more likely you are to suffer from back pain, and the more likely you are to sustain a back injury.  Also, back injuries take longer to heal in obese patients. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can protect your back from unnecessary stress, strain and injuries.


          Patients who have strong core muscles are less likely to sustain a back injury.  Why? Because their paraspinous muscles, as well as their abdominal muscles, are strong enough to keep their spine from stretching too far in the event of an injury.  By doing pilates, yoga, and other core-strengthening exercises, patients can help their spine stay in proper alignment, preventing back pain and spinal injuries.


Whether you’re suffering from back pain or another injury, we’re here to care for you seven days a week!  Make an online appointment or simply walk in to get the care you need.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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