How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

7 Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

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Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you don’t knowthe cause.

Back pain rehabilitationspecialistAndrew Nava, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgicaltreatment options—and advises not to give up hope.

Common Causes of Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back painis usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The mostcommon causes include:

In some cases, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.

“If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, it’s time to seek asecond opinion from a back pain specialist,” recommends Nava.

It’simportant not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medicalprocedures until the origin of the pain is found. Not only may they nothelp; they could make the pain worse, warns Nava.

If the source of the pain is not known or can’t be treated, your bestoption may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and makingthe pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.

Nonsurgical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain

  1. Exercise is the foundation of chronic back pain treatment. It’s one of thefirst treatments you should try under the guidance of your physician andspine physical therapist.

    However, the same set of exercises doesn’t workfor everyone, says Nava. The exercises have to be tailored to your specificsymptoms and condition.

    Maintaining the exercise routine at home is also abig part of success.

    Physical therapy for chronic back pain may include:

    • Retraining your posture
    • Testing the limits of pain tolerance
    • Stretching and flexibility exercises
    • Aerobic exercises
    • Core strengthening
  2. Chronic back pain is straining both physically and emotionally. To manage the frustration, irritability, depression and other psychological aspects of dealing with chronic pain, you may get referred to arehabilitation psychologist. This specialist may recommend meditation, yoga, tai chi and othercognitive and relaxation strategies to keep your mind from focusing on pain

  3. Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats,refined sugars and processed foods. Consult with your doctor to see if yourdiet could be contributing to your chronic back pain and how you couldchange it. Maintaining a healthy weight could also help lessen your backpain by reducing the pressure on your spine.

  4. When you have chronic pain, it’s important to accept your limitations andadapt. “Listen to your body and learn to pace yourself,” suggests Nava.Take a break when mowing the lawn, or make several trips when carryinggroceries.

    Take note of the activities that worsen your pain and avoid themif possible. Not only could this help your back feel better, it could alsoprevent the underlying condition from advancing. Another important lifestyle change to try is giving up smoking.

    Nicotine isscientifically known to accentuate pain and delay healing.

  5. Nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations and other types of injection-based procedures are available for chronic back pain.

    They are used when the source of the pain is known and can sometimes help rule out certain causes if the treatment doesn’t work.

    Injections may stop or lessen pain for a certain period of time, but are not intended as long-term solutions and shouldn’t be used in isolation.

  6. Acupuncture, massage, biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, electrical nerve stimulation and other nonsurgical spine treatments can also make a difference forchronic back pain. Talk to your spine specialist about alternativetreatments that could benefit you.

  7. Analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and other medicationscan be used to help control chronic back pain. However, most come withunwanted side effects and are not intended for prolonged use.

    “Opioid medications generally shouldn’t be used as the first, the only orthe long-term line of treatment for chronic back pain,” recommends Nava.Many of them are addictive and don’t address the underlying cause of yourpain.

    Opioids should be prescribed only after a thorough exam by aspecialist and if other drugs have failed to provide relief. If you findyourself relying on opioids to get through the day, it may be time to seeka second opinion.

These red flags can be indicators for surgery, if they’re found to berelated to your spine condition:

  • New or progressing bowel/bladder issues
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Gait and balance problems
  • Evidence of increased (brisk) reflexes

Surgery can also be an option for chronic back pain if there is a knowncause confirmed by imaging and if other treatments didn’t help. “Getopinions from at least two surgeons,” suggests Nava, “as pain can stillcome back after the surgery.”


10 Lifestyle Changes Help Prevent Lower Back Pain

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

About 80% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. Fortunately, lower back pain (LBP) usually gets better on its own. However, for some it may become an annoying recurring condition.

Lower back pain is not a diagnosis, it’s a symptom. We can’t always determine the underlying medical cause of lower back pain, but we can try to identify as much as possible about the root issues.

If you come to our office with back pain, we’ll start by getting your medical history. And we’ll perform a physical examination. If appropriate, we may do some additional tests.

Rather than just treating symptoms, the medical history, exam and tests will help us treat the underlying cause. This allows us to provide a better outcome.

Acute Lower Back Pain

LBP typically gets better in a few days or weeks. We call these cases acute LBP. The causes of acute LBP are usually difficult to identify. The cause is often ‘strain’ or ‘sprain,’ meaning muscle or ligament-related pain. We usually don’t need to find the root cause since it goes away in matter of days to weeks.

Chronic Lower Back Pain

When LBP lasts longer than three months, we call it chronic lower back pain (CLBP). Causes of CLBP are difficult to identify. However, we should always try to find the causes.

The careful process of finding the cause can help assure that there isn’t a life-threatening condition. We can eliminate concerns about paralysis or becoming wheelchair bound. We can also establish that you can continue to work and exercise, even if you are in pain.

You may be asked to provide a complete patient history. We’ll conduct a physical examination and, when appropriate, imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan. The specialized tests can help us find the causes of chronic LBP.

Research continues to give us a better understanding of CLBP. Genetics may play a major role as an underlying cause. So, choose your parents carefully!

Preventing Lower Back Pain

You can reduce the chances that you experience lower back pain by making these positive lifestyle changes.

  1. Eat healthfully so you keep your body weight within a healthy range.
  2. Get regular exercise to keep your back muscles fit and flexible.
  3. Avoid prolonged sitting.
  4. When you do sit, maintain good posture.
  5. Use proper techniques for lifting (lift with your legs rather than your back).
  6. Avoid frequent bending and twisting. Especially avoid bending, twisting and lifting at the same time ( shoveling snow).
  7. Avoid situations where your spine is vibrated for long periods of time.
  8. Get enough sleep each day.
  9. Stop smoking.
  10. If you have depression and/or anxiety, visit with your health care clinician about ways to manage it.

Ask your health care professional for guidance about steps we’ve mentioned for preventing lower back pain.

When Should You See a Health Care Professional?

If you have back pain that doesn’t improve within about six weeks, see your health care clinician or a back specialist.

See a clinician immediately if:

  • The pain becomes intolerable.
  • You develop leg numbness or weakness.
  • You have difficulty in controlling bladder or bowel.

For lower back, shoulder or knee pain, request a free injury evaluation from select Aurora locations. Just complete the short online form to get started.

Treating Lower Back Pain

If you suffer from lower back pain, treatment may include:

Need an appointment with a health care professional? Schedule one online. Don’t have a doctor, you can find one online, too!


6 Tips to Prevent Back Pain

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

Back pain can be the result of trauma, such as a fall or a car accident.

But most often back pain is the result of an everyday activity done incorrectly — activities as common as twisting to reach or lift an object, sitting at a computer in the same position for hours, bending over to vacuum, and carrying shopping bags. The good news is that back pain prevention isn't all that difficult, often requiring just a few adjustments that will soon become second nature.

Here are six simple but effective back pain prevention tips.

  1. Exercise. One of the most important things you can do for back pain prevention is to get up and get moving. Why does exercise prevent back pain? Muscles are meant to move, says Robin Lustig, DC, a chiropractor at New Jersey Total Health Center in Lodi and Pompton Plains, N.J. If you aren't in good shape, you're more ly to hurt your back and feel pain when you do even simple movements, such as lifting your child from his crib. “Also, exercise helps keep your joints fluid,” Dr. Lustig says. Another reason exercise prevents back pain is that exercise helps you keep your weight down — being overweight, especially around your stomach, can put added strain on your back.
  2. Eat right. “If you maintain good eating habits, you not only will maintain a healthy weight, but you also will not put unnecessary stress on your body,” Lustig says. A steady diet of excessively spicy or fast food can strain your nervous system, which is going to create back problems, she adds. Conversely, a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grains will keep your digestive tract on track. “If your intestines are working and functioning properly, that will maintain your spine because your inside and your outside relate to one another,” Lustig says. “I have found that many people who come in complaining of low back pain also have irritated bowels.”
  3. Sleep sideways. You don't want to sleep flat on your back. The best position for sleeping is on your side. If you must sleep on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen to help take stress off your back. Having a supportive mattress and pillow for your head are vital as well. “Getting enough, restful sleep is always an important part of maintaining good health,” Lustig says. Also, if you exercise during the day, you sleep better at night.
  4. Maintain proper posture. “People sitting at their computer for seven or eight hours a day is keeping me in business,” says Lustig. “People slouch over their computers and their telephones when they're texting, and they don't realize the damage they're doing to their backs and the pain they could be causing.” Be sure to work at an ergonomically correct workstation, both at the office and at home, and break up long periods in front of the computer with stretching exercises. If you practice good posture, you will maintain the natural curves of your back and help keep it strong.
  5. Reduce stress. You probably don't realize how much stress can impact your back health. Stress causes you to tense your muscles, and constant tension of this kind can cause back pain. Any activity that helps you reduce stress will help prevent back pain, Lustig says. Stress reduction activities can include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing, tai chi, and guided imagery.
  6. Quit smoking. It's well known that smoking raises your risk for heart disease and cancer, including lung and colon cancers, but most people don't realize that smoking also can be a cause of persistent back pain. Research also shows smoking can make existing back pain worse. It's not entirely clear how smoking affects back health, but one possibility is that it narrows blood vessels. Narrowed blood vessels result in less oxygen and nutrients reaching the spine and, in turn, it becomes more susceptible to injury and slower to heal.

You can reduce your risk for back pain with simple lifestyle changes. However, if you should experience back pain, don't ignore it. It could be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you should do to find and treat the cause.


Daily moves to prevent low back pain

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain
Harvard Men's Health Watch

Stretching and strengthening daily is your best bet to delay the next attack of low back pain.

When low back pain flares up, most men can't do more than grit their teeth, reach for a numbing cold pack, and wait for it to get better. Four five of us experience low back pain sometime in our lives, but this common source of suffering is also an opportunity.

“An episode of acute low back pain is a call to action for people who are simply not exercisers,” says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of orthopedic surgery and medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It is a good time to make a commitment to exercise when you are starting to feel a bit better—typically in a few weeks.”

It's important to understand that exercise is not guaranteed to eliminate back pain; however, exercise could make it less frequent. “You could have a lower risk of flare-ups over the subsequent year,” Dr. Katz says.

When is exercise appropriate?

Low back pain due to muscle strain or muscle spasm is amenable to exercise. But if the pain traces to a problem in the spine, approach exercise more cautiously.

One common warning sign of a spine-related problem is sciatica, or pain that radiates from the back down into the leg. The pain may be accompanied by a tingling “pins and needles” sensation.

If you have sciatica, don't begin a new exercise program without speaking to a doctor.

Less commonly, low back pain can be a “red flag” that warrants immediate medical attention if it takes any of these forms:

  • back pain with fever
  • pain that does not improve or worsens
  • numbness in the groin
  • loss of bladder or bowel control
  • leg weakness
  • inability to find a comfortable sitting or sleeping position during episodes of back pain.

When to start exercising

When back pain is severe, remain up and around to the extent possible. Extended bed rest is not good during a b severe back pain, but neither is rushing into stretching and strengthening exercises, according to research.

“If you have an episode of low back pain and try to start exercising the next day, that turns out not to be that helpful,” Dr. Katz says. Instead, resume your normal activities as soon as possible, but avoid lifting heavy weight and engaging in physical activities that exert sudden stresses on your back, jogging or shoveling snow.

Getting started

When the severe pain subsides, gradually begin daily, gentle exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the lumbar spine. Stronger and more flexible muscles may be less prone to injury.

The exercises illustrated below are classic starter moves. Ask your doctor for advice on which exercises to do and how often. A daily routine is ideal.

The studies conducted to date have not identified any particular type or level of exercise that works better than others for preventing low back pain. However, people who exercise regularly, compared with those who do not, tend to have fewer recurrences of back pain over time.

Exercise alternative: Yoga

Gentle yoga shows some promise for low back pain. In yoga, you position your body in set poses for short periods. This relaxes muscle tension, expands range of motion in the joints, and builds muscle strength.

But beware: pushing muscles and joints too far too fast can lead to injury.

If you have a history of low back pain, don't start yoga before you clear it with your doctor and then work with an experienced teacher who is aware of your back condition.

Whatever form of exercise you try for back pain, approach it as a trial run with a specific endpoint, Dr. Katz advises. “It doesn't take a year to establish that a type of exercise, yoga, doesn't work. But it's all right to give something a try.”

Daily stretching and strengthening exercises can help to prevent flare-ups of back pain related to muscle strains and sprains. Perform these three exercises daily after a back pain flare-up subsides and your doctor says it's safe. Take it slow, and stop if it hurts.
Starting with the knees bent, pull one knee to your chest and hold the stretched position for 5 to 10 seconds. Alternate sides; repeat 5 to 10 times each.Starting with the knees bent, pull both knees to your chest and hold the stretched position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.Starting with the knees bent, flatten your lower back to the bed or floor. Hold the back flat for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


7 Tips to Protect Your Lower Back

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

The marvelous strength and flexibility that's engineered into your lower back also makes it susceptible to developing lots of problems. And because of the many nerves that run throughout your spine and into the rest of your body, a problem in the lower back can lead to leg pain, hip problems, and more.

Learn more about the anatomy of your lower spine. Watch: Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

Protecting your lower back involves taking measures to avoid direct injury, prevent indirect trauma, and control the progression of a problem that may have already occurred.


Here are 7 proven tips that can go a long way in protecting and stabilizing your lower back.

1. Strengthen your core muscles daily

Strong and supportive muscles throughout the trunk of your body are essential to support your spine. Core-building exercises include:

  • Low-impact cardiovascular exercise, such as normal or brisk walking, which helps increase blood flow to the spine and stretch your muscles. An adequate flow of blood supplies healing nutrients and hydration to the structures in your lower back.1,2 See Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise
  • Water therapy, which provides a greater range of motion due to the buoyancy of water, particularly for exercises that require lifting the legs. Water also provides resistance by means of gentle friction, allowing the strengthening and conditioning of an injured muscle.3 This therapy is optimal for people who have chronic back pain and find it too painful to exercise without the supportive effect of water. See Water Therapy Exercise Program
  • Exercise ball workouts, such as sitting on the ball intermittently for about 20 to 30 minutes and/or using the ball for stretches and exercises that engage your core muscles.4 See Exercise Ball Therapy for Lower Back Pain Relief

If exercise seems difficult or impossible to you, make small goals to slowly get yourself moving, such as going up and down your stairs 3 times in a row or walking in a park with a friend.

Consider engaging a physical therapist or other qualified health practitioners to help you get started and provide correct guidance on how to safely exercise.

Read more about Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain Relief

2. Invest in an ergonomic office chair

Slouching forward while working at a desk places excessive pressure on the discs in your lower back and can cause problems, such as disc degeneration to occur or further deteriorate. Support the natural curve in your lower spine by:

  • Using an ergonomic chair that helps you align and support your back and thighs correctly
  • Placing a small rolled-up towel in the small of your back for additional support
  • Using a standup desk, if possible for at least part of the day

It is helpful to set a timer for every 50 minutes to an hour on your phone to remind yourself to check your posture, walk for a few minutes, and stretch your lower back and leg muscles.

See Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

3. Safeguard your back while lifting

Lifting is a common cause of lower back pain. Common everyday activities, such as unloading grocery bags from the car or lifting your young child, can lead to lower back problems.

Lifting with your back bent, or lifting while twisting, may cause a sudden injury to your lower back or repetitive injury over a period of time, leading to chronic tissue damage.

Follow these lifting-guidelines to prevent lower back injury5:

  • Bend at your knees, not at your lower back; a completely flexed (forward bent) back can be highly susceptible to a ligament and/or disc injury
  • Pivot your feet and hips, rather than twisting your lower back
  • Hold the object close to your chest while straightening your spine

While lifting is a part of everyday activities, having a job that includes heavy lifting may increase your risk of developing lower back problems.5

See Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques

How to lift small objects

The golfer’s lifting technique is particularly helpful in lifting small and light objects. This technique includes the following steps5:

  • While one leg bears the body’s weight, lift the other leg off the floor and toward the back for counterbalance
  • Support one arm on a stationary object, such as a table or a countertop and bend down at the hip ( a fulcrum) so that the body becomes almost parallel to the floor
  • Reach the free arm to pick up the object

This technique is considered safe for the lower back tissues because lifting one leg toward the back allows the spine to stay straight and the counterbalance offsets the strain on the back. The golfer’s lift is particularly useful for the repetitive lifting of small objects.5

See Additional Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injury

4. Dissipate stressors during everyday activities

Even small amounts of stressing on the intricate structures in your lower back can add up and lead to degeneration and pain over time. Here are recommendations on how to reduce everyday stresses to concentrate on your lower back5:

  • Opening a door. While opening a door, stand straight in front of the door’s handle and pull it perpendicular to your body. Avoid standing on the side of the handle and twisting your trunk while opening the door, which may injure your spinal ligaments.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner. While vacuuming, hold the vacuum cleaner in front of your body with both hands and use small arm movements while cleaning. Holding the vacuum to the side of your body with just one hand results in large arm movements and requires more twisting torque forces on your lower spine.
  • Shoveling snow or while gardening. While shoveling, rest one arm on your thigh while slightly bending the knees. This technique helps prevent large arm movements and prolonged stooping, which significantly loads your lower back. See Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries

Using spine-sparing principles such as these on a daily basis helps prevent chronic injury to the tissues.

5. Rest your back after prolonged bending

When you bend forward for a long time, such as while weeding your garden, certain changes take place in your discs and ligaments. These changes last for a few minutes, during which time, the stability of your spine is reduced. The joints also become temporarily stiff during this period.5

Your lower back is at risk for sustaining a sudden injury after these tissue changes if you exert stress on your back immediately afterward, such as lifting a bag of soil right after you’ve been bending and weeding for a long time.5

It is advisable to stand upright for a few minutes and allow the spinal tissues to recover and re-shape after prolonged stooping or bending before attempting strenuous exertions.5

6. Protect your discs immediately after waking

The pressure within your discs rises up to 240% when you sleep at night (for a minimum of 7 hours).6 At this time, your discs are fully hydrated and are typically at a higher risk of herniation when subject to bending or lifting forces.5,6

See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

Maintaining a straight back for an hour or two after waking allows your discs to regain their normal pressure and withstand loads more effectively.5,6

7. Stretch your hamstrings

A little-known cause of low back pain is tight hamstrings. Simple hamstring stretching exercises can help decrease the pressure on your pelvis and provide relief across your low back. Certain hamstring stretches also help relieve leg pain associated with lower back problems, such as sciatica.7

See Easy Hamstring Stretches

Not all hamstring stretches are good for all types of back conditions. Check with your physical therapist or doctor first to find out which exercise modification may be suitable for you.

Watch Hamstring Exercises for Low Back Pain Relief Video


When you improve your overall physical fitness and general health, it will benefit your lower back. The following simple measures can help prevent the development, chronicity, or flaring of your lower back pain, such as:

  • Staying active
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Minimizing the consumption of alcohol
  • Getting enough deep, restorative sleep
  • Following an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Avoiding smoking and any form of nicotine intake
  • Managing mental and psychological stress by participating in related therapies

The damage to any single tissue can lead to biomechanical changes that progressively affects the other structures.5 The resulting effects may cause pain in your lower back, hip, and/or leg(s).

Incorporate these tips and techniques in your daily activities to help prevent or minimize the development of new problems or future flareups of your lower back pain.

Learn more:

Early Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Video: 5 Overlooked Tips to Protect Your Lower Back


Back pain prevention

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

To avoid back pain, you must reduce excess stresses and strains on your back and ensure your back is strong and supple.

If you have recurring bouts of back pain, consider:

  • losing any excess weight — you can use the body mass index BMI calculator to find out whether you are a healthy weight for your height
  • exercising regularly
  • trying not to sit for too long
  • wearing flat shoes with cushioned soles — these can reduce the stress on your back
  • avoiding sudden movements or muscle strain
  • being careful when lifting
  • making sure your mattress supports you properly
  • having proper posture when using computers, phones or watching TV
  • trying to reduce any stress, anxiety and tension


How you sit, stand and lie down can have an important effect on your back. The following tips should help you maintain a good posture.


Stand upright, with your head facing forward and your back straight. Balance your weight evenly on both feet and keep your legs straight.


You should be able sit upright with support in the small of your back. Your knees and hips should be level and your feet should be flat on the floor (use a footstool if necessary). Some people find it useful to use a small cushion or rolled-up towel to support the small of the back.

If you use a keyboard, make sure that your forearms are horizontal and your elbows are at right angles.


Make sure that your lower back is properly supported. Correctly positioning your wing mirrors will prevent you from having to twist around. Foot controls should be squarely in front of your feet. If driving long distances, take regular breaks so that you can stretch your legs.


Your mattress should be firm enough to support your body while supporting the weight of your shoulders and buttocks, keeping your spine straight. If your mattress is too soft, place a firm board — ideally 2cm thick — on top of the base of your bed and under the mattress. Support your head with a pillow, but make sure that your neck is not forced up at a steep angle.


Exercise is both an excellent way to prevent back pain and to reduce any back pain you might have. However, if you have chronic back pain (back pain that has lasted for more than 3 months), consult your doctor or physiotherapist before starting any exercise program.

Exercises such as walking or swimming strengthen the muscles that support your back without putting any strain on it or subjecting it to a sudden jolt.

Activities such as yoga or pilates can improve the flexibility and the strength of your back muscles. It is important that you carry out these activities under the guidance of a properly qualified instructor.

Many people injure their back when doing everyday chores at home or work, such as lifting, gardening or using a vacuum cleaner. 'Warming up' your back with some gentle stretching before you start these chores can help to prevent injury.

Lifting and handling

One of the biggest causes of back injury, especially at work, is lifting or handling objects incorrectly. Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help to prevent back pain.

  • Think before you lift — can you manage the lift? Are there any handling aids you can use? Where is the load going?
  • Start in a good position — your feet should be apart, with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance. If you are lifting something from the floor, kneel down with one knee on the floor. Don’t lift from a standing position with your waist bent.
  • When lifting, let your legs take the strain — bend your back, knees and hips slightly, but do not stoop or squat. Tighten your stomach muscles to pull your pelvis in. Do not straighten your legs before lifting as you may strain your back on the way up.
  • Keep the load close to your waist for as long as possible, with the heaviest end nearest to you.
  • Avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways, especially when your back is bent. Your shoulders should be level and should face in the same direction as your hips. Turning by moving your feet is better than lifting and twisting at the same time.
  • Keep your head up — once you have the load secure, look ahead, not down at the load.
  • Know your limits — there is a big difference between what you can lift and what you can safely lift. If in doubt, get help.
  • Push rather than pull — if you have to move a heavy object across the floor, it is better to push it rather than pull it.
  • Distribute the weight evenly — if you are carrying shopping bags or luggage, try to distribute the weight evenly on both sides of your body.

If you are still concerned about back pain, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).


10 Daily Habits To Stop Back Pain

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

Although determining the cause of back pain can be complicated, there are many different actions you can take to help alleviate your back pain or prevent it from getting worse. It's all about relieving pressure, reducing strain, protecting your spine, and strengthening your muscles. Changing a few daily habits can help you maintain a healthy, pain-free back for a long time.

Sleeping on your back puts pressure on your spine. Elevating your legs slightly relieves this pressure on your back as you sleep. You can cut that pressure in half by placing a pillow under your knees.

The numerous health benefits of exercise are well-known. A regular strength-training routine that focuses on your core muscles can help reduce your risk of back-related injuries, such as strains and muscle spasms. Try incorporating back and abdominal strengthening exercises into your workout at least two times per week to develop a stronger, more flexible back.

Strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis. It’s one of the most common causes of back pain later in life, particularly for women. Keep the bones in your spine strong by consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • leafy greens
  • vitamin supplements

Vitamin D is in:

  • fatty fish
  • egg yolks
  • beef liver
  • cheese

Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes to prevent back pain. They reduce the strain on your back while standing. Shoes with less than a 1-inch heel are the best bet for your back.

Good posture isn't just a way to look more proper. It protects the intricate pieces of your spine to keep them healthy and functioning properly. Bad posture puts strain and stress on your back and can change the architecture of your spine. Avoid rounding your shoulders, slouching, or bending sideways when standing.

When sitting in an office chair, use the same good posture techniques you use when standing. It’s critical to keep good posture and support your back when sitting down, especially if you do it for several hours per day. Choose a quality chair that provides firm support for your lower back, and make sure your knees are a little higher than your hips when you sit.

Whether you’re at an office party or a bar for happy hour, avoid sitting in an awkward position or standing in one place. Move around the room to avoid putting pressure on your spine, which can happen if you stand in one place for too long.

We all know smoking is a serious health risk, and smokers are also more ly to experience back pain than nonsmokers. One reason for this is that nicotine restricts blood flow to the disks in the spine.

This can cause them to dry out, crack, or rupture. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which causes a reduction in nourishment to the muscles and tendons in the back.

An unhealthy, weak back is more vulnerable to accidental strains and pulls that cause back pain.

Improper or heavy lifting is a common cause of back pain, but it doesn't only happen to people who lift heavy boxes on the job. Carrying a bulky laptop bag, suitcase, camera, or a load of groceries can also cause a strain on your back.

Whenever possible, take some weight off your shoulders by carrying less, distributing the weight to both sides of your body, or shifting the weight from shoulder to shoulder.

Consider using a rolling cart or bag with wheels for heavier loads bags of groceries or boxes of files.

Standing, sitting, or lying down in one place for an extended amount of time isn’t healthy for your back. Relieve the strain of the day whenever you can by getting up, walking around, and doing some simple stretches. This will help improve circulation to your back. It can also ease any strains or aches that occur due to inactivity.


11 Ways to Keep Back Pain Away

How To Prevent And Treat Back Pain

If you’ve been sidelined by a sore back, you’re not alone. Four five people experience back pain at some point, making it the second most common reason for visiting the doctor.

Back pain takes various forms, from a persistent dull ache to sudden sharp pain, and has many causes. Sometimes it results from a sprain, fracture, or other accidental injury.

It can stem from a disease or medical condition, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal through which the spinal cord runs).

Many people develop back pain in part because they’re overweight or sedentary.

The good news is that most lower back pain usually gets better within a few days or weeks, and surgery is rarely necessary. What’s more, simple self-help strategies such as these can be surprisingly effective at preventing back pain and keeping it from returning:

1. Get more exercise. If your back is hurting, you may think the best way to get relief is to limit exercise and to rest. A day or two of rest may help, but more than that may not help the pain. Experts now know that regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension.

2. Watch your weight. Extra pounds, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse by shifting your center of gravity and putting strain on your lower back. Staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight may help control back pain.

3. If you smoke, stop. Smoking restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs, so smokers are especially vulnerable to back pain.

4. Sleeping position. If you’re prone to back pain, talk with your doctor about the best sleeping position. Sleeping on your side with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest is sometimes suggested.

Prefer to sleep on your back? Put one pillow under your knees and another under your lower back. Sleeping on your stomach can be especially hard on your back.

If you can’t sleep any other way, place a pillow under your hips.

5. Pay attention to your posture. The best chair for preventing back pain is one with a straight back or low-back support. Keep your knees a bit higher than your hips while seated.

Prop your feet on a stool if you need to. If you must stand for a prolonged period, keep your head up and your stomach pulled in.

If possible, rest one foot on a stool — and switch feet every five to 15 minutes.

6. Be careful how you lift. Don’t bend over from the waist to lift heavy objects. Bend your knees and squat, pulling in your stomach muscles and holding the object close to your body as you stand up. Don't twist your body while lifting. If you can, push rather than pull heavy objects. Pushing is easier on the back.

7. Avoid high heels. They can shift your center of gravity and strain your lower back. Stick to a one-inch heel. If you have to go higher, bring along a pair of low-heeled shoes and slip into them if you become uncomfortable.

8. Stash the skinny jeans. Clothing so tight that it interferes with bending, sitting, or walking can aggravate back pain.

9. Lighten your wallet. Sitting on an overstuffed wallet may cause discomfort and back pain. If you’re going to be sitting for a prolonged period — while driving, for example, take your wallet your back pocket.

10. Pick the right handbag or briefcase. Buy a bag or briefcase with a wide, adjustable strap that’s long enough to reach over your head. A messenger bag ( the ones bike messengers wear) is made to wear this way.

Having the strap on the opposite shoulder of the bag distributes the weight more evenly and helps keep your shoulders even and your back pain-free. When carrying a heavy bag or case without straps, switch hands frequently to avoid putting all the stress on one side of the body.

To lighten the load, periodically purge bags, cases, backpacks, and other carriers of things you don't need.

11. Forget about back braces. Various back supports are available, from elastic bands to special corsets. They can be helpful after certain kinds of surgery, but there is not much evidence that they help treat chronic back pain.


Chou, R. Annals of Internal Medicine, Oct. 2, 2007.

Medline Plus: “Back Pain.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Back Pain,” July 2009.

North American Spine Society: “Back Pain Basics” booklet.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Back Pain Information Page,” “Back Pain Information Sheet.”

Family Doctor: “Low Back Pain.”

American Chiropractic Association: “Today’s Fashion Can Be Tomorrow’s Pain” and “Back Pain Facts and Statistics.”

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