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Our society is used to warning signs – sirens, engine lights and smoke alarms. The body sends warnings too, but instead of flashing lights, we often experience neck or back pain.

Spine surgeon Dilantha Ellegala, MD, said these are signs of bigger health issues. “Back and neck pain is the canary in the coal mine,” Dr. Ellegala said. “Today it’s your back and your spine. Tomorrow it can be your heart or diabetes. This is your body telling you, ‘it’s time to change your lifestyle.’”

Dr. Ellegala empathizes with individuals suffering with chronic pain. He uses exercises and healthy nutrition to mitigate pain from a kayaking injury. His secret to spine health? Exercise and weight loss. “I may be a spine surgeon, but this is about getting our patients healthy,” Dr. Ellegala said.

Excess weight puts pressure on the spine, leading to back pain and often, spine surgery. “Surgery is always the last option. The real goal is to maintain a healthy weight through the right diet and exercise and avoid surgery altogether,” Dr. Ellegala said.

We don’t keep our cars on the road with an engine light staring us in the face. If your body is telling you something, listen and take corrective action.

For more information about spine health, visit or call 855.982.1591.