Troubling back problems: The good news first

No one needs to tell you that back pain is a special kind of misery. Sometimes it’s so bad that we’re surprised to learn it can often be improved through simple lifestyle changes. Often, back pain is not caused by serious injury or underlying disease, but rather something as simple as posture or lack of physical activity. Other times, back pain comes from the basic wear and tear of everyday life.1

What about as I age?

Our spines age along with us, and that means we’re more likely to experience back problems as the years pass.2 But there are ways to ward off a decline in spine health.

Four tips to keep your back younger

1. Start with your core muscles

Strengthen your core muscles. They have a lot of work to do supporting your spine and taking pressure off your back. Check with your doctor to make sure you’re good to exercise, then try a targeted stretching routine that includes flexion, which is bending forward, and extension, which is bending backwards. This can help tighten your stomach and improve your posture and alignment along the way.

2. Stand up straight

You’ve probably heard that sitting all day is bad for your health. You won’t be surprised to learn that it’s really bad for your spine.2 It was designed with a natural curve that can take on the weight of your entire body. But this engineering marvel gets warped when you slouch into a chair and remain there for hours on end. Ergonomics experts tell us sitting can load up to 90% more stress directly onto your back.3 Proper posture redistributes that load. Always keep both feet flat on the floor, make sure your knees are level, and position them just a bit lower than your hips.

3. Sit and work smarter

If it’s within your budget, an ergonomic workstation can help coax your body into the optimal positions, for the entire day. Don’t forget to get up and move around frequently. Choose a chair with multiple settings that accommodate different seating postures. Position your keyboard and mouse at the same level. Let the armrests of your chair support your arms.

4. Be smoke free

Does anyone really need another reason to quit smoking? Well, here’s one. While they’re busy ruining your lungs, cigarettes are also targeting your spine. Smoking decreases bone density, which raises the risk of osteoporosis. Weakened bones can result in back pain and discomfort. With impaired blood flow from smoking, your spinal tissues can’t get the nutrients and oxygen they need for good health, today and as you age.2  

Follow these tips and your back will thank you, especially as you age. They may also help keep you out of the waiting period for surgery.4 And remember that Engineers Canada-sponsored Disability Insurance is here to protect you if you are faced with a health challenge and unable to work.


1 Cleveland Clinic, “Lifestyle Changes To Ease Back Pain”, April 2021.
2 Physiomed, “Indulging Your Spine: 4 Ways to Keep Your Back Healthy as You Age”, October 14, 2019.
3 UCLA Health, “Spine Care, Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting”, 2022.
4 Health Ontario, “Quality-Based Procedure Clinical Handbook”, January 2022.