Back health and safety

Your back

back x-ray

Your back is a column of 24 vertebrae (7 Cervical, 12 Thoracic, and 5 Lumbar) as well as 5 fused vertebrae in the sacrum and the 4 coccygeal bones.

Your spine is also comprised of soft tissue structures (ligaments, muscles and tendons) and intervertebral discs. The discs act like cushions to absorb shock. In addition, your back provides movement and stability. To do this, your back must stay healthy though good posture, proper material handling techniques, and healthy habits (pdf).

How do I keep my back safe and healthy?

There are many things you can do to avoid back pain.  Some healthy habits include:

  • Adopt good postural habits.  Maintain the natural curves in your back, they provide strength and support for you back.  This is especially important when doing anything strenuous (such as lifting) or when sitting/ standing for prolonged periods of time.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.  Added pounds can cause added strain on your back.
  • Keep your back strong.
  • Improve your flexibility.  Did you know that having flexible hamstrings can often reduce your lower back discomfort?
  • Participate in a regular exercise program (be sure and seek approval from your physician before starting any exercise program)

What causes back pain?

While back pain can occur from a single incident such as car accident or a fall, most back pain occurs as a result of:

  1. Poor posture
  2. Poor physical health
  3. Poor body mechanics
  4. Repetitive strain

These factors can cause wear and tear on your back and may eventually lead to pain and disability.