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Healthy Living Reminders

Healthy Habits

When it comes to back and neck care you can never be too careful. That's why at Spine Team Texas, we've compiled this list of helpful reminders for our patients. Below you'll find a few tips designed to help you perform everyday activities with the least amount of strain on your back and neck, as well as some preventative measures to help you keep your back in shape.

    Treatment at Home
  • Exercise: Continue your customized exercise program daily to help strengthen your back and prevent future pain. Remember, never do any exercise that causes you pain. Should any pain occur, stop at once and call your Spine Team Texas physician.
  • Ice: Should swelling occur around your neck or back, apply an ice pack for no more than five-minute intervals. After 48 hours, some heat may be applied to help increase blood flow.
  • Movement: When you suffer from back or neck pain, the common response is to lay down. But prolonged bed rest can actually cause the back muscles to weaken and make activity even more painful. That's why it's important, in order to keep your recovery progressing, to keep some semblance of activity.
    An Ounce of Prevention
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time: walk, bend or gently twist at regular intervals.
  • When standing at length, prop one foot on a stool to reduce strain on the lower back and alternate every half hour.
  • While traveling by plane, raise your feet on a briefcase or bag underneath the seat in front of you.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which arches your back and puts pressure on your spine.
  • If you sit for long periods at the office, invest in an ergonomically correct chair, or roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back.

Summer Activities


Cycling offers a number of benefits to the back and neck. A great preventative exercise, riding a bicycle is both nonweight-bearing and achieves results. Dr. David Rothbart and the experts at Spine Team Texas have compiled the following list of rewards cycling can offer your back and spine and a few tips on how to get the most out of your ride:


  • Riding a bike improves lower body muscular strength and overall endurance
  • Biking is a nonweight-bearing exercise, so it places less stress on the spine, hips and knees
  • Cycling is a great cardiovascular and conditioning exercise
  • Stationary bikes offer benefits when weather conditions prevent hitting the roads and trails
  • Regular exercise can increase your flexibility, which reduces your risk of back pain and injury
  • Cycling engages your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings


  • Be sure to use the right kind of bike for the terrain on which you're riding—taking a street bike to off-road trails will be rough. You'll end up with a flat tire and a sore back.
  • Have an experienced professional fit you for the proper type and size of bike in order to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Ride with your back straight—this will prevent lower-back stress and can improve your posture.


Traveling long distances in either a car or plane can bring back and neck pain for many, but there are some techniques that can prevent the discomfort of travel.

  • Men should remove wallets from back pockets while driving to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Stop every few hours to stretch and keep muscles loose.
  • If you're in the car for a long drive or ride, roll up a towel or place a small pillow behind your lower back to support the lumbar spine.
  • Onboard an aircraft, place your feet on either a briefcase or other small bag under the seat in front of you.
  • Also, onboard, place a pillow behind your lower back, and stand up every hour to ward off back and neck discomfort.

Amusement Parks

Thinking of taking the kids to enjoy their favorite amusement park rides? If you consider taking the seat next to them on that roller coaster, you may want to keep the following thoughts in mind for back and neck care:

  • Relax — Before getting on those rides, especially rides with a lot of G-force, try to relax your muscles and do a few stretches to loosen up. If you tense up and try to hold your neck and back in place, you may cause yourself some pain.
  • Follow instructions — If you come up to a ride that advises guests who suffer from back and neck pain to abstain from riding the ride, then you should definitely heed the warning.
  • Report injuries to your physician — If you find that your back is sore after riding any of the rides, you should probably cut the rides short for the day. Depending on the intensity of the pain, you may want to consider visiting the park's first aid station. If you find that you have radiating pain in your arms or legs, persistent pain, weakness or numbness below the shoulder or hip, your foot drops and you begin to drag your toe or foot, or you lose control of your bladder or bowels, you should seek assistance from a spine specialist as soon as possible.


  • Get an air or foam mattress — Your sleeping bag on the hard ground may not be the best situation if you have back or neck pain, or if you don't venture out to the wilderness often. Invest in an air or foam mattress — the cushion will make sleeping easier, and you won't wake up with the creakiness the next day.
  • Wear good shoes — If you plan on taking that nature walk, make sure to wear shoes with good shock absorbers. If you pull out your old standbys to walk on rough terrain, the muscles in your lower back may not thank you in the morning. Shock absorbers wear out in shoes, so consider getting some inserts if you've already put some miles on your kicks.
  • Drink water — Being out in the sun all day can take a larger toll on your body than you may think. Lack of hydration may cause sensitivity in the back muscles, so drink up.

Coaching Kids Sports

  • Proper lifting — We've all seen the bags of bats, baseballs, gloves, bases, soccer balls and nets that our kids' coaches lug with them everywhere and considering the weight, coaches should be sure they are using proper lifting techniques. Either get down on one knee, or squat and use the strength from your arms to lift heavy bags. Keep your back upright and stand up using your leg muscles to provide the lifting force. Hold the bag as close to your body as possible when lifting so you can use your muscles most efficiently.
  • Stretch — When you get the kids out to warm up with drills, batting practice, kicking or catching, it's important to loosen up your muscles and stretch out beforehand, too. Not only will you be limbering up your back muscles, but you'll be setting a good example for the kids.
  • Stand tall — If you're standing for a long period of time, be sure you're moving around and not just planted on the sidelines or in the dugout. If you are standing in one place, you may want to shift your weight now and then, or stand with one foot elevated (occasionally switching feet) and take a moment to stretch your back every few minutes.
  • Kneel, don't bend — Whether you're offering one-on-one advice or bringing the kids in for a huddle, remember to kneel or squat instead of bending over.


  • Warm up — It's important to do an adequate warm up to limber up your back and neck muscles before you tee off.
  • Take a lesson — Whether you've never played golf before or you're an old pro who's been experiencing some back pain, you might want to take a lesson on swing mechanics. These classes are offered pretty routinely, and they emphasize proper form to be used to prevent back pain and injury.
  • From the hip — When bending during your game, be sure that you're bending from your hips and knees and not your back.
  • Focus — Concentrating on the biomechanics of your swing will help ensure that you don't suffer a back or neck injury. Think about the motion of your body and don't lean forward.

Holiday Tips

Considering that:

  • According to AAA, during the week of Christmas and New Years, more than 8 million Americans will by flying. (2006)
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than 5,000 people sustain falls related to holiday decorating that takes place between November 1 and January 31.
  • 70 to 85 percent of all people will experience back pain at some time in their lives (National Institute of Health)
  • Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years old (National Institute of Health)

Dr. David Rothbart with Spine Team Texas offers the following tips and hints for keeping your back healthy and happy this holiday season:

  • If you're driving for long periods of time to Grandma's house, stop every few hours to stretch and keep muscles loose.
  • Whether you're flying or driving, roll up a towel or place a small pillow behind your lower back to support the lumbar spine and prevent pain.
  • When traveling, men should remove their wallets from back pockets while driving to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • On-board an aircraft, placing your feet on either a briefcase or other small bag under the seat in front of you and standing up every hour or so are good things to keep in mind.
  • Remember to practicing proper lifting techniques for those heavy or bulky holiday packages.
  • When carrying down the decorations from the attic or the closet, remember to hold the boxes as close to your body as possible to avoid possible injury.
  • Kneel instead of bending to dig through those boxes of ornaments.
  • Avoid hunching over to wrap gifts—try wrapping gifts on an elevated surface while standing instead.
  • Don't overextend your reach when trying to hang lights or decorate the tree—this can cause muscle strain in the back. Instead, get a step stool or small ladder for those jobs that are just out of reach.
  • When climbing the ladder to hang lights, it’s best to have someone on the ground watching your back—a person on the ground stabilizing the ladder and keeping an eye on your progress will help keep safety at the top of mind.

New Years Tips

In order to compensate for extra weight, the spine can become tilted and stressed. As a result, the back may lose its proper support and experience increased pain in the joints, discs, muscles and ligaments of the spine. Experts have established that lack of exercise is a major cause of back pain, and regular exercise can help relieve it.

First, talk with your doctor about your weight loss goals. He or she can help you develop a diet plan and exercise program to achieve that weight loss. Beginning your program with low-impact activities like walking or swimming can help ease you back into regular physical exercise without overstressing or straining back or neck muscles. If you do start experiencing severe pain, stop immediately and talk to your doctor.

Movement and exercise are the best ways to trigger blood flow into disc space and soft tissue around the spine. This exchange of nutrients through exercise keeps muscles, tissues, joints and ligaments in the back healthy and feeling good.

The effectiveness of back surgery can also be affected by a patient's weight. Patients who are obese are at higher risk for complications than those patients who are not overweight. Paying attention to your weight before undergoing back surgery may improve the healing process after surgery.

When you begin your weight loss program, remember that if you start exercising regularly and follow a heart-healthy diet, you'll probably not only lose a few pounds…you'll also sleep better, look better, and have more energy. And best of all - your back pain should lessen considerably!

Moving Tips

Dr. David Rothbart and Justin Keller, physical therapy manager, have compiled some tips on how to avoid back and neck injuries and overexertion while moving:

  • Know your physical limits. Hire movers for the heavier items, such as couches, refrigerators and other furniture as these items are best left to the professionals.
  • Budget time for your move. Don't try to do it all in one day, rather space it out over the course of several days to prevent overexertion.
  • Preventative stretches will help to reduce the chance for injury. A great one to try is a prone press-up, especially after bending forward and lifting for several hours or days.
  • Always lift with the item as close to your body as possible, and keep your back and head in an upright position.
  • A temporarily used back brace may make help make it though a long day of lifting; however, one should not be used on a daily or prolonged basis. Only wear one as you may need it.

Gardening Tips

Gardening can be a great stress reliever for many folks, but it can also cause an aching back to crop up. Consider this:

  • A Gallup poll of 2,000 people found that 42 percent of them had suffered from back pain. Of that segment, 47 percent reported that the problem was related to working in a garden. (Poll conducted in 2000.)
  • A Canadian research firm, Pollara, surveyed 500 chiropractors in Ontario in 2003 asking them what the most common source of back pain was for their patients. They reported that 88 percent of cases stem from yard work and gardening. (The survey went on to list golf at 31 percent and outdoor sports with 30 percent as two other likely causes of back pain.)

Dr. David Rothbart and the team of experts at Spine Team Texas offer the following tips to ward off back problems associated with gardening:

  • Before planting, digging and/or weeding, do some basic stretches to loosen your muscles.
  • Kneel on the ground to plant—don't bend.
  • When picking up plants, tools, etc., lift with your legs and not your back.
  • Keep good posture and tighten your stomach muscles to support your back.
  • When shoveling, raking or hoeing use tools that are tall enough so that you aren’t bending down to use them. New ergonomic rakes make the job even easier.
  • Use your arm and leg muscles when pushing/pulling objects, not your back.
  • Take breaks and change tasks so that you're not in the same position for an extended period of time.
  • Choose hand tools that are lightweight and avoid overreaching when using them.
  • When using a greenhouse bench or a potting bench, make sure it's the right height and that you're not stooping over to plant.
  • Use a wheelbarrow for those bags of mulch and compost.
  • For lifting heavier items, find someone to help you.
  • Don't bag your grass clippings (unless you have a large amount) as this requires a lot of forward bending with a heavy item.
  • Set a timer to make sure that you are working for only an hour or two in the yard at a time so that you don't over do it.
  • If your back does feel sore, use ice on it for 15 to 20 minutes.