Most people don’t spend much, if any, time thinking about their spine health. We tend to worry about infectious diseases or perhaps conditions that commonly run in our families, but take spinal health for granted. Considering the fact that most of us will suffer at least one back injury in our lifetimes – often leading to chronic malfunction – ignoring spine health is definitely a mistake.

So, what can you do to keep your spine healthy? Some of these tips might surprise you…

Stop smoking. Yes, really! Smokers exhibit slower healing in general, due to blood flow restriction. If you sustain any type of injury, your odds of full recovery are better if you do not smoke.

Stay within your recommended weight range. Carrying weight in excess of your skeleton’s capacity will place strain on your spine, other bones, and joints.

Strengthen your core muscles. A strong abdomen means your back will do less of the work, and will help you to move correctly.

Stand correctly. Avoid locking your knees when standing, because this places additional stress on the lower back. Also, don’t stand bent at the waist for extended periods of time.

Sit correctly. Keep your shoulders back, spine straight, and feet planted on the floor. Avoid slumping, and focus your gaze comfortably forward (not up or down for extended periods of time).

Bend, reach, and lift correctly. Use a stool when reaching for overhead items, and place your body as close to the item as possible.

Instead of bending at the waist, squat and use your leg muscles to lift items off of the floor. Avoid twisting motions when lifting, and distribute weight equally across muscle groups.

Sleep appropriately. Invest in a quality mattress and pillows, and use pillows correctly. If you’re a back sleeper, support your lower back with a pillow under your knees. Side sleepers should place a pillow between their legs. Stomach sleeping is not recommended, due to the strain it places on the lower back and neck muscles.

And of course, remember to see your chiropractor regularly! Preventive care for the spine is just as important as other types of preventive care. Paying attention to your spine health now will pay off in reduced risk of accidents and chronic pain later.