To Prevent Back Pain: Don't Sag in Bed, Watch Your Wallet, Listen to 'Dirty Harry,' Push, Don't Pull, Cross Your Legs and Use Both Hands; Tips For a Healthy Back From Pain Specialist Norman Marcus, M.D.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 General News
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NEW YORK, Aug. 13 If you're like eight out of tenAmericans, you will suffer from disabling back pain during your lifetime,according to the National Institutes of Health.

But since most back pain is caused by stressed and damaged muscles (anddoes not emanate from the spine), there are steps you can take to help preventit, says noted pain specialist Norman Marcus, M.D.

Dr. Marcus, a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, isClinical Associate Professor in Anesthesiology and Psychiatry and Director ofMuscle Pain Research at the NYU School of Medicine, and the founder of theNorman Marcus Pain Institute (, which is dedicated to eliminatingpain, not just attempting to manage it.

He points out that muscle pain can be so severe that that it can leave youtotally impaired.

When chronic back pain does occur, it should be treated seriously -- andappropriately, says Dr. Marcus. "With the failure rate for the nearly onemillion spine surgeries performed in the U.S. each year as high as 50 percent,it is clear that there has to be better way -- and there is."

Dr. Marcus has developed techniques that have significantly reduced orcompletely eliminated chronic back pain in thousands of patients. He has shownthat muscles are the primary cause of chronic back pain and that the pain canalmost always be cured without resorting to mind-altering drugs or to spinesurgery that all too often is doomed to fail.

To read the National Pain Foundation interview with Dr. Marcus, visit: Marcus's offers these tips designed to prevent chronic back pain: -- Don't sag in bed: A sagging mattress that's lost its resilience inhibits the body's normal inclination to gently move around during sleep, and your muscles require movement to stay healthy. In effect, a little tossing and turning at night is good for you. "If you're sleeping on a mattress that's as old as your teenager, it's time for a replacement," says Dr. Marcus. -- Don't watch television or read when you're lying down in bed. When you lift your head to view the screen -- or raise your arms to hold a book -- you generate an isometric contraction that strains your muscles and can cause pain in your neck, head or shoulders. To watch TV or read in bed, sit up with your back supported by the headboard and your knees bent. -- Cross your legs: "Our muscles are meant to move," says Dr. Marcus. In a theatre or in any situation when you've been sitting for a long time, and it may be awkward to stand or move around, just cross a leg. And a bit later cross the other leg. Simply crossing your legs moves many back and hip muscles, which can be major contributors to low back pain. -- Watch your wallet: Men who habitually sit with their wallet in their back pocket risk put undue pressure on nerves and back muscles and risk severe low back and leg pain. -- Listen to Clint Eastwood: "Dirty Harry" was right when he observed that "A man's got to know his limitations." (A woman, too, Harry.) If something appears to be too heavy for you to lift, it probably is. Rather than risk straining or seriously damaging your muscles, says Dr. Marcus, "Ask for help, wait for help, hire help -- or walk away." -- When you do have to lift a heavy object, bend with your knees and hips -- not your back. Bring the object close to your body and use your leg muscles (your most powerful muscles), not your back, to do the heavy lifting. -- Be a pushy person: Whenever possible, push (don't pull) heavy objects, using those leg muscles for power. -- Lend your hand a hand: Two heads may be better than one, but two hands definitely are. Distribute the weight evenly by pu

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