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Watch your back
10 tips to keep it strong

No-nightmare ways to choose the right mattress

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress can help ease your pain and reduce stiffness, so take time to find the best one for you:

  • Seek good support. Look for a mattress that isn’t uncomfortably firm but supports your whole body, with no gaps between the mattress and your body.
  • Shop in person. Spend at least 15 minutes lying on each mattress you’re considering buying. In one study, people who chose mattresses this way generally were still happy with their choices months later.
  • If you have lower back pain, choose a medium-firm mattress that supports your spine without putting too much pressure on your hips and shoulders.

Back pain isn’t inevitable—if you take the right precautions. Follow these steps to strengthen your spine:

  1. Stay in shape: Combine strengthening and stretching exercises with low-impact aerobic activities such as walking, swimming or cycling to avoid injury and promote circulation for a healthier spine.
  2. Stand up straight: Good posture is essential to back health. Keep your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips, knees and feet. When sitting, tuck a rolled towel behind you.
  3. Roll over: Sleep on your side with one pillow tucked between your knees and one supporting your head and neck. If you snooze on your back, place a pillow under your knees.
  4. Slim down: Keep within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to reduce the stress on your back.
  5. Butt out: Smokers tend to have more back pain than nonsmokers because nicotine curbs the flow of blood to your spine.
  6. Lift with care: When lifting a heavy object, squat to pick it up. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your legs, not your back, keeping the object close to your body. Don’t twist your body while you’re lifting.
  7. Lose the high heels: Can’t break your heel habit? Alternate between flat shoes and low heels. When you’re just kicking around, wear supportive athletic shoes.
  8. Lighten your load: Heavy purses put pressure on your neck and shoulders and can lead to upper-back problems. Carry only what you need and switch sides frequently.
  9. Stay calm: Tension tightens your muscles. Yoga and other relaxation techniques can reduce the effects of stress on your back.
  10. Take a break: For every hour you’re stuck at a desk or behind the wheel, take a few minutes to stretch and walk around.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media