Many people have experienced the annoying aches and pains of a stiff back. In fact, research shows that some 83 million days of work are lost per year due to back pain. Additionally, some studies note that neck pain affects 30% to 50% of adults in the general population in any given year.
Given how common it is, many people might assume that neck and back pain is a normal part of life. But it doesn’t have to be. The best way to manage neck and back pain, according to experts from NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine, is by staying active and strengthening your spine in safe ways.
“I often tell my patients that rest is rust, motion is lotion, and movement is medicine,” says Dr. Michael Saulle, a sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist with Och Spine and an assistant professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Being mindful of how you’re carrying yourself in your day-to-day activities and understanding how your posture and different stressors can potentially cause neck and back pain may help you minimize the risk of injuries.
“One of the most common reasons people develop back and neck issues is a lack of exercise, and that has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” says Dr. Roger Härtl, co-director of Och Spine and a neurosurgeon with New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“Most spine problems don’t require surgery, and the last thing we want is for patients to end up undergoing surgery when they could have been treated with something that is much less invasive,” notes Dr. Härtl. “That’s why I always encourage my patients, with or without surgery, to try to stay in shape to prevent further problems related to their spine.”
Here, Dr. Härtl and Dr. Saulle share with Health Matters five tips to help people manage neck and back pain and keep their spine healthy.