By John J. Moss, M.D., medical director, Northside Hospital Spine Center

Most people will experience back pain at some time in their life — about 80 percent, in fact. It’s no wonder, considering the complexity of the spine. Between the vertebrae, discs, joints, ligaments and nerves, there’s plenty that can go wrong.

Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and spasms. However, when treated appropriately, most pain is self-limited, with no long-term effects. In about 90 percent of cases, it goes away after four to six weeks. But the best approach to managing back pain is prevention. It’s the key to just about every other disease and ailment and back pain is no exception.

Preventing back pain

Consider any type of physical activity you do as an athletic event. Are you going to plant trees, take up tennis or clean the attic? Each of these activities can cause significant physical stress and strain. By incorporating daily stretching and back-sparing techniques into your normal routine, you can help to prevent trouble.

  • Practice good posture, keeping your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and feet aligned.
  • Stretch often. Take at least 15 minutes to warm up/stretch before starting any physical activity.
  • Use your legs, not your back, to lift heavy objects.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Wear sensible shoes.
  • Lighten your load. If you carry a heavy shoulder bag or purse (five or more pounds), get rid of unnecessary items and switch shoulders often.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow tucked between your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach; and if you must sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees to keep your back in a more natural position.

In case of injury

Evaluate your symptoms. Ice is best for new injuries, while heat is good for persistent injuries. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help, but be sure to check with your doctor regarding drug interactions or other medical conditions. Also, stay active, but avoid heavy lifting or repetitive twisting or bending. Change positions frequently and stretch regularly. See a doctor if you have pain that won’t go away; your pain is severe; or you have pains, numbness or weakness in the legs.

For more information about back pain, including videos and candid conversations with spine and back specialists on latest treatments, visit


Northside Hospital Spine Center

Northside Hospital’s Spine Center makes evaluation and treatment of back pain as easy as possible, offering self-referral and appointments, within 24 hours in most cases. The center is equipped to diagnose and treat any condition that involves the spine.

Patients benefit from a conservative coordinated and personalized approach, combining the expertise of specialists in neurosurgery, pain management, radiology and physical therapy, each available on-site to expedite care.

Most major insurance plans are accepted. To schedule an appointment, call 404-459-1809.

Two locations:

5670 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd., Ste. 950
Atlanta, Ga. 30342

1100 Northside Forsyth Dr., Ste. 400
Cumming, Ga. 30041