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Lower back and neck pain are very common today with the amounts of stress in people’s lives.  In fact, back pain is the number one reason people call out of work and also the number one reason people apply for disability.  In addition, it is the cause of much of the current opioid epidemic.  Opioids are a group of medications that are prescribed for back pain; however, they are very addictive.  They are actually derived from heroin, and once a patient starts taking these medications, it is hard for them to stop. In my opinion, it is necessary to come up with preventative ways to help to prevent back and neck pain so people are less likely to start using these harmful pharmaceuticals.

Many people believe certain actions cause back pain, but lack of mobility is actually more of a cause of neck and back pain than too much movement.  The best time to start moving is right when you wake up in the morning.  If you have a cat or a dog you will notice that the first thing they do in the morning is stretch.  If you look at a new born baby, the first thing he or she does in the morning is stretch.  However, as we get older, many people just jump out of bed, rush the kids to school, hurry to work and do not take the proper time to warm up their muscles.  If it is necessary, set your alarm a few minutes early and do some light stretching to start your day properly.

After you have stretched a little bit to warm up your muscles and ideally have already performed some sort of aerobic or anaerobic exercise as well, it is important to remember to stay active the whole day. The morning is the best time to work out for your physical and emotional health.  However, it does not mean you are done moving for the day if you want to help prevent back or neck pain.  Most people drive to work, sit at the computer all day, sit at home to eat dinner and then sit on the couch to watch TV before bed. All of these activities put more strain on your back and neck.  I suggest the 20 Rule:  After every 20 minutes of sitting, get up for only 20 seconds, walk 20 feet, and look 20 feet away.  This will help keep your body moving during the day. 

If you have been sitting at the computer or have been studying during those 20 minutes, I recommend doing shoulder rolls where you make backward circular movements with your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together with a constant movement for 20 seconds.   A lot of my patients have long commutes into the city which is a lot of sitting as well.  For these patients, I recommend a certain cushion that blows up with air, is placed on the seat and feels like you are sitting on an exercise ball.  This way the back cannot tighten up and it keeps you moving the entire time.  I also use this for long plane or train rides. 

Sleeping positions can also contribute to back or neck pain. The worst position to sleep in is on your stomach.  If you are a stomach sleeper, it is imperative that you stop immediately.  You may suffer for a couple of weeks while you transition, but it will be worth it because you will feel better and prevent future problems.  If you sleep on your side, it is important that you have a pillow between your knees and only one medium-sized pillow under your head to keep it straight.  The pillow I recommend is from the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.  If you sleep on your back you should not have a pillow under your head.  It is best to fold a towel in half, roll it up, and stick that under your neck and have no pillow under your head.  If you are currently suffering from low back pain, you can stick a pillow under your knees and that will make sleeping on your back more comfortable.

If you work at the computer, make sure the monitor is eye level, and your elbows and knees are at 90 degree angles.  If you lift things, always bend with your knees and avoid twisting.  When getting up from a lying position, push up with your hands and elbows rather than swinging up with your back.  When reading, keep the book upright so you are not looking down.  If you are using your cell phone, keep it in front of you rather than bending your head and neck forward.  These are just simple rules to follow for prevention of neck and back pain.

If you already suffer from neck or back pain, I recommend getting an evaluation to determine, whether it is from muscles, bones, or nerves.  We are offering a FREE consultation at our New York or Emerson, NJ office to determine the cause of your problems.  Remember we do not want to treat symptoms with opioids, it is best to get to the root cause of the problem and heal the body from within.  If you’re interested in learning more information about our office and services, please visit our website at www.kaplandc.com, call us at 212-620-8121 (NY) or 201-261-2150 (NJ) or email us at info@kaplanbrainandbody.com.