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How to keep back pain from becoming chronic

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

As your back gets older, occasional aches can turn into chronic, perhaps disabling, pain. In the March issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch, Zachariah Isaac, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, offers suggestions aimed at making sure that doesn't happen.

His list:

• Don't baby your aching back. Cutting back on activity because of temporary pain can lead to muscle weakness, which can make things worse.

• Keep up a regular program of “core” exercises because those middle-of-the-body muscles are the ones that support your lower spine.

• Stay limber, because tight muscles can increase pain.

• Watch your posture. Focus on standing upright, and don't slouch when you sit.

• Get enough sleep. “Poor sleep . . . alters brain chemistry, and you are more prone to developing a chronic pain state.”

• Stay positive and relax. Isaac notes that the spine's close relationship to the brain means that maintaining a good emotional state can have physical benefits. For example, he says, stress-relieving deep-breathing exercises can lessen the pain of a sudden backache.

— The Washington Post

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