Checkups: Got back pain? Cincinnati doctors say you can ease the ache by becoming a 'spine athlete'

CINCINNATI - "Oh, my aching back!” If you’ve ever felt a dull ache or sharp shooting pain in your spine, you can relate to this sentiment.

Between 75 and 80 percent of all Americans will experience back pain in their lifetimes, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

To help reduce back pain and injury, doctors at the Mayfield Clinic and Spine Institute are encouraging people to become “Spine Athletes,”  and they've even taken steps to trademark the term.

“We all understand that when an athlete is not playing his or her sport, that athlete is in the gym, on the track, exercising, conditioning, thinking about proper nutrition, in order to keep in top shape," said William D.Tobler, MD, neurosurgeon at Mayfield. "That notion carries over to the care of patients with spine problems."

WATCH: Dr. Tobler explains how to become a spine athlete in the video above.

Tobler said it’s critical to use the discipline of an athlete to care for your back, especially if you have a job that requires repetitive movements or sitting for long periods.

"We’re not conditioning our muscles," Tobler said. "We’re overweight. And we’re not in good shape, and this sets the stage for having significant spine problems.”

To be a “Spine Athlete,” Doctor Tobler recommends a healthy diet and regular exercise. For patients with acute back problems, doctors might prescribe a physical therapy regimen.

For other peoples, disciplined back care means working out at a gym or taking pilates, yoga, and other classes that promote core strengthening, flexibility, and mobility of the spine.

“They need to condition their spines and by staying in tip-top shape, optimize their ability to function and use happily the only spine they’ll ever have,” says Dr. Tobler.

If you get back pain:

  • Rest, lie down, or avoid the activity that provoked the pain.
  • Use ice to numb the pain and help decrease inflammation.
  • Take oral anti-inflammatories (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), if suggested by your physician.
  • See a doctor if the pain persists more than several days.
  • Get prompt medical attention if you have numbness, weakness, or paralysis.

Of course, many causes of back pain will require more extensive evaluation and treatments.

“Spine wellness is something that people should consider at any time in their life, even before they have a spine problem,” Tobler said.

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