You may be able to avoid back pain by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
To keep your back healthy and strong:
- Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don't strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are good choices. Talk with your doctor about which activities are best for you.
- Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) help condition these muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for your back. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs aligns your pelvic bones to improve how your back feels. Your doctor or physical therapist can let you know which exercises are right for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts strain on your back muscles. If you're overweight, trimming down can prevent back pain.
Use proper body mechanics:
- Stand smart. Maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you must stand for long periods of time, alternate placing your feet on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back. Good posture can reduce the amount of stress placed on back muscles.
- Sit smart. Choose a seat with good lower back support, arm rests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level. Change your position frequently, ideally at least once every half hour.
- Lift smart. Let your legs do the work. Move straight up and down. Keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward. Learning to lift properly may be more effective at preventing a recurrence of back pain than a first episode.
Because back pain is such a common problem, there are numerous products available that promise to prevent or relieve your back pain. But, there's no definitive evidence that special shoes, shoe inserts, back supports, specially designed furniture or stress management programs can help. In addition, there doesn't appear to be one type of mattress that's best for people with back pain. It's probably a matter of what feels most comfortable to you.
Sept. 11, 2012
- Adult acute and subacute low back pain. Bloomington, Minn.:Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. http://www.icsi.org/low_back_pain/adult_low_back_pain__8.html. Accessed July 10, 2012.
- Balague F, et al. Non-specific low back pain. The Lancet. 2012;379:482.
- Wheeler SG, et al. Approach to the diagnosis and evaluation of low back pain in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 14, 2012.
- Low back pain fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Duffy RL. Low back pain: An approach to diagnosis and management. Primary Care: Clinics Office Practice. 2010;37:729.
- Devereaux M. Low back pain. Medical Clinics of North America. 2009;93:477.
- Hoy D, et al. The epidemiology of low back pain. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology. 2010;24:769.
- Jensen JN, et al. The greatest risk for low-back pain among newly educated female health care workers; body weight or physical work load? BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2012;13:87.
- Coenen P, et al. Cumulative low back load at work as a risk factor of low back pain: A prospective cohort study. Journal of Occupation Rehabilitation. In press. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Pepijn DDM Roelofs, et al. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000396.pub3/abstract. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Knight CL, et al. Treatment of acute low back pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 14, 2012.
- Engers AJ, et al. Individual patient education for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004057.pub3/abstract. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Hayden J, et al. Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000335.pub2/abstract.. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Last A, et al. Chronic low back pain: Evaluation and management. American Family Physician. 2009;79:1067.
- Carneiro K, et al. The role of exercise and alternative treatments for low back pain. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2010;21:777.
- Furlan AD, et al. Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/view/0/index.html. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Furland AD, et al. Massage for low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001929.pub2/abstract. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Henschke N, et al. Behavioural treatment for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002014.pub3/abstract. Accessed July 15, 2012.
- Tillbrook HE, et al. Yoga for chronic low back pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155:569.
- Sherman KJ, et al. A randomized trial comparing yoga, stretching, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2011;171:2019.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.