Tips to prevent back pain

HOUSTON It was back pain from two herniated discs that drives Bobby Surles to early morning exercise classes.

"Doing yoga or core that protects that back," Surles said. "I don't intend to have back surgery."

And he found that lots of his friends are just like him; they're also living with back pain.

"Half the people that I know have back issues," Surles said.

If it seems like everyone you know has back pain, you're right. In fact one in three Americans has severe back pain at some point in their life. So here are some ways to help reduce that pain.

1. Lose Weight

"For every one pound extra that a person carries in their tummy, it's 100 pounds extra of stress in the back," said Dr. Stan Jones, an orthopedic surgeon at Foundation Surgical Hospital. "So if you're 30 pounds overweight, you have 3,000 pounds of stress in your back that can be immediately alleviated with 30 pounds of weight loss."

2. Exercise

Work the core muscles like Surles does. It can be Pilates or other exercises. The stronger your stomach and abdomen muscles the less pressure on the spine.

3. Increase Flexibility

Stretch tight hamstrings; they pull on the pelvis. And Jones says that puts the back in a vice grip.

4. Do Not Go on Bed Rest

"We used to put people on bed rest for a week or two weeks, but what we found was people on bed rest don't do as well because the muscles get weaker," Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Christoph Meyer said.

5. Don't sit in the same position too long.

6. Try a rolled-up towel or back pillow to support your back.

7. Anti-inflammatory drugs.

Orthopedic surgeons still recommend Celebrex, despite its link to increased heart risk. But they say take it only as long as it's needed.

"Celebrex is a prime example of a drug that's been over-criticized," Jones said. "Most of the studies at MD Anderson have not shown any cardiovascular side effects and no harmful or ill effects long term."

And don't get discouraged. Our experts say most back pain will improve on its own.

To encourage those of you dealing with back pain, researchers are testing stem cells as a treatment. Adult stem cells are now being injected into painful discs and joints, with some success in other cities. So stay tuned, there is hope.

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