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Back to Basics: How to Maintain a Healthy Spine

Most of us have either experienced back pain firsthand or observed it in loved ones. Its effect on normal daily activities, work, sports and even on our relationships can be profound. In fact, back pain is one of the leading health concerns in the country and can cause significant disability and loss of productivity.

The normal, healthy spine acts as a conduit of information from the brain via the nerves, skeletal structures, and soft tissues to the outside world. When subtle dysfunction occurs, it can lead to a vicious cycle of pain, weakness and altered biomechanics. Fortunately, these issues can often be prevented with simple maintenance.

3 Ways to Maintain a Healthy, Functional Spine

Tip 1: Work on normal flexibility of the spine and its connecting structures such as the hips, legs and shoulders. Most activities we do in life are sedentary and include reaching out in front of us. This can cause an imbalance in muscle development and soft tissue flexibility. 

  • Avoid long periods of sitting in one position. Get up and stretch several times a day while at work or when driving.
  • Use good posture while sitting or performing other tasks at work. Get an ergonomic evaluation to make sure your workstation is set up properly.

Tip 2: Consistently build endurance and strength in your core. This will make daily life activities easier as well as help prevent injury during more high -level activities such as in sports.

  • Talk with a personal trainer or physical therapist about developing a core-strengthening exercise program.
  • Stick to a daily or twice-daily core strength and flexibility program even after your training or therapy sessions have ended and even when you are not having back pain.
  • Perform these exercises every day even when you are not having back pain for maintenance.

Tip 3: If back pain flairs up, don’t become sedentary or lie in bed. While you should avoid heavy lifting, bending, or twisting while you are in pain, the spine likes movement, and not moving can actually worsen the problem. Instead, do very gentle neutral spine exercises and stretches, such as the following:

  • Cat-cow movements
  • Pelvic tilts in supine position
  • Mini bridges
  • Bringing your knees to your chest while lying on your back to stretch

We’ve got your back

Spine dysfunction is one of the most difficult issues to treat because of the number and complexity of causes. A spine expert can identify of the cause of pain or injury and advise treatment options including nonsurgical alternatives. Imaging technology such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound can lead to carefully planned therapeutic spinal injections by a sports medicine and spine physician. If you suffer from back pain or spinal issues, talk with your care provider about a referral to a spine specialist.


Alison Ganong, MD, is a Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician at Barton Health’s offices in Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe. To make an appointment, call 530.543.5554. For more information about spine services and complementing therapies, visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com.