How to keep your back pain-free


Low back pain is a common experience, but it doesn't have to be.

For most people, back pain resolves, but for a small percentage, low back pain becomes a chronic condition. Many back injuries are occupational in nature. Occupational back injury is clearly related to lifting and repeated activities. People whose jobs require repetitive lifting, such as nursing and heavy industry, are especially at risk. The key to avoiding such pain is to prevent it. Staying in good physical condition with back strengthening exercises as part of your routine may help. Learning how to lift correctly and maintaining good posture also will be helpful. The way you do normal, everyday activities could determine whether you aggravate your back or keep it pain-free.

Try these suggestions to help you avoid back injuries.

Standing:  If you stand for long periods, try to elevate one foot or shift your weight often. Women should avoid wearing high heels; instead, they should wear low-heeled shoes with good cushioning and arch support.

Sitting:  Make sure your chair supports your lower back, or use a lumbar support or pillow. Keep your knees even with your hips. To do this, you may need to adjust your chair height or use a footstool.
Don't slouch over your desk or lean your head forward. Slouching requires greater muscular effort and creates more tension in your back. To do close work, move your chair in. Get up every hour or so and stretch, fidget  when you are sitting.

Lifting:  Bend from the knees, not the waist, and use your legs, not your back, for support. Carry loads as close to your body as possible. Don't lift and twist at the same time.

Sleeping:  Sleep on a firm mattress that provides good support. Place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back or between your knees if you sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which places your back in an unnatural posture. Place a pillow under your abdomen if you do sleep on your stomach.

Driving:  Move the car seat forward enough so your knees and hips are at the same level and you don't have to stretch your legs to reach the pedals. Sit in an upright position; don't recline the back of your seat. On long drives, take frequent rest stops so you can get out and stretch.

Keep it moving:  Exercise is important to back health because it helps you lose and keep off weight, builds muscle tone and improves your circulation and mobility. Strong muscles, especially those in your back, thigh and abdomen, improve the weight-bearing capacity of your spine.

These exercise-safety rules reduce your risk of back injury:

  • Warm up before starting an activity. Warm muscles are less prone to injury.
  • Start your exercise program slowly and increase your level gradually.
  • Avoid unsupported bending. If you lean forward at the waist, bend your knees slightly and tighten your stomach muscles to help support your back.
  • Cool down after exercise.
  • Stop exercising if you feel back pain.