Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to an ailing back.
While exercise and physical therapy often are prescribed for people who already have back pain, local officials say it's best to be proactive when it comes to matters of the spine.
George Frazier, manager of CentreTown Fitness in Wheeling, said the best way to keep a back healthy is to exercise. The key is strengthening one's core or abdominal muscles via specific exercises, such as crunches and stretches. Even simple daily walks can help.
"If you keep them strong and toned it takes the pressure off the skeletal system," Frazier said of the core muscles.
For overweight patients with back issues, pain may be alleviated by taking off pounds, which also lessens pressure on the spine, he noted.
Dr. Jorge Roig, Weirton Medical Center anesthesiology and pain center services director, said more than half of the patients referred to his center are suffering from back pain. He, too, believes prevention is the best medicine.
"Generally speaking, the patients we see are sent to us by their primary care physician," Roig said. "We try to determine ... how or when it occurred, if there was a mechanical reason it started."
In younger people, he said, back pain typically is caused by muscle strain or some other physical problem. In older patients, back pain often is caused by arthritis or spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the spine.
"Over a lifetime, most people suffer from some form of back pain," he said.
At the center, he said, most people are treated with physical therapy and medicine.
Dr. Gerald Booth, a Bridgeport-based chiropractor, said a majority of his back pain patients come to him for help when other alternatives have not worked.
"In most cases, the bones in the spine have become malaligned," Booth said, noting misalignments impact nerve impulses from traveling correctly through the spine.
"Chiropractic is based on the brain controlling every function in our body. It sends nerve messages through the spinal cord ... Our job is to get rid of the pressure that interferes with the nervous system."
For people suffering from back pain, Booth recommends they call their doctor first and, if necessary, receive a thorough examination.
"Don't assume you know what the problem is until then," he said.