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My Aching Back!

What to do about lower back pain

Most people experience some type of lower back pain. You might attribute it to sleeping incorrectly, overdoing it on a Saturday home improvement project or sitting too much at the office. But do you know what is causing your pain? More importantly, do you know that most lower back pain can be prevented?

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), nearly 12 million visits are made to physician offices each year because of back problems and lower back pain is one of the most prevalent complaints. In addition, an estimated eight out of 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

Your lower back or lumbar spine is important because it connects your upper body to your lower body and provides you with both mobility and strength. "Your lower back allows you to turn and bend as well as stand, walk and lift," says Max Benzaquen, MD, Neurologist at St. Luke's Hospital. "If you ignore your health in this area, it can seriously impact your quality of life. The lower back is important to almost every daily activity."

The muscles and ligaments of the lower back provide support, stability and strength for the entire lower back region-a complex network that includes the vertebrae, shock-absorbing discs, joints, spinal cord and nerves-and are the source of many lower back problems. Pain usually occurs when the muscles and ligaments are either overworked or under-conditioned which lead to sprains and fractures.

Many lower back problems can be attributed to improper sleep patterns, overuse or lack of use that cause weak muscles, poor posture and harmful lifting techniques. "The solution isn't to stop participating in these activities, but to do them differently and better prepare your body for them."

To prevent lower back pain, the AAOS and Dr. Benzaquen suggest the following: