If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 5 in 10 Canadians suffer from chronic low back pain, while 85% of working Canadians can expect to experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. Back pain is a common problem, with many different causes – some of which are easy to determine, while, in other cases, may be complex in nature.

Our backs play an important role as they help support our body. Things like extra body weight or poor posture can put a hard demand on or spine and joints, ultimately increasing the risk of low back pain and other back-related problems in the future. In addition, living a sedentary lifestyle can also play a role in the health of our spine. For example, when you sit for a prolonged period of time, this can have a negative impact on your muscles and joints and can cause the spine to decondition (resulting in a decline in your ability to physically function) as well as cause the back to feel fatigued and stress. Back pain can also be cause as a result of a muscle or ligament strain which are often caused by things like heavy lifting or sudden and awkward movements, ruptured discs, motor vehicle accidents, or other health conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

The good news is that there are things you can to do strengthen the back as well as manage back pain that you might be experiencing.

As mentioned, living a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most common reason why someone will develop back pain, therefore one of the most important things to do to prevent that from happening is to ensure that you are partaking in low-impact physical activity on a daily basis, whether it’s by doing regular household activities (i.e. house cleaning, gardening), or other exercises such as low-impact aerobics, biking or stationary cycling. Stretching and resistance exercises, as well as swimming, can also be quite helpful in preventing back problems. If you happen to have a current back injury, you should always first check with your physician before starting any new physical activity, as you could potentially worsen the injury if you’re not careful.

Another important preventive measure when it comes to back injuries is to make sure your diet includes foods that are best for spinal health. These include highly pigmented fruits & vegetables (such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries, kale, broccoli, and spinach), plaint-based proteins (such as beans, lentils, and chia seeds), foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon), a mix of herbs and spices (such as basil, rosemary, ginger and cinnamon), and high-calcium dairy products (such as milk, yogurt and cheese.)

In cases where you’ve just suffered a back injury, one of the first things you should do is to stop whatever it was you were doing and apply ice to the affected area. This can help reduce pain and swelling in the immediate minutes and hours following the injury. After icing it for the next 2 or 3 days, you can then switch to applying heat to the area. As a further measure to relieve pain, you can take over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If after 1 or 2 weeks your back pain does not subside, you should speak with your physician. He or she may have alternative recommendations or treatment options for you to try. If your lower back pain also includes other symptoms, such as weakness in the legs, severe stomach pain, loss of bladder or bowel control, or you have a high fever, then you should seek immediate medical attention as these could be signs of a medical emergency.