How to Avoid Back Pain

Five Methods:Adjusting Your PosturePicking Things Up CarefullySleeping ProperlyExercising to Avoid Back PainLosing Weight to Avoid Back Pain

Back pain can be... well, painful. To avoid back pain, maintain proper posture and lift things carefully. Staying fit and healthy will strengthen your back and reduce the load it has to carry. Sleeping in a back-friendly position will keep your back pain-free, too.

Method 1
Adjusting Your Posture

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    Stand properly.[1] Keep your pelvis in a neutral position, neither thrust forward nor pulled back. Avoid standing in one place for long periods. If you have to for work or some other reason, try to put one foot on a footstool and lean on it to reduce the load on your back. Change from your left to right foot after several minutes to avoid straining.
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    Support your back at the office.[2] This is especially important if you work in an office environment where you do a lot of sitting. A chair with armrests and a swivel base is usually best for your back. If necessary, place a small pillow or a rolled-up towel at the small of your back to keep it slightly curved. Your knees and hips should be level, and your feet should stay on the ground.
    • Get up and walk about briefly every thirty minutes or so.
    • In addition to having a comfy chair, you should keep your forearms horizontal and your elbows at ninety-degree angles when working on a keyboard.[3] Adjust your chair up or down as needed to achieve this position. Do not lean forward on your desk to reach your keyboard.
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    Ensure your back is supported properly when driving.[4] Move your mirrors in such a way that you don’t need to crane your neck or twist around when driving. If necessary, put a small pillow or a rolled-up towel behind you in the small of your back.
    • The same applies when travelling by bus, plane, or train. Stand up and walk down the aisle once each hour.
    • Stop and pull over every hour or so to walk for a bit if you are on a long car ride.

Method 2
Picking Things Up Carefully

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    Think about what you’re lifting.[5] Before trying to pick something up, try to lift up one corner of it to get a feel for how much it weighs. Will you need help lifting it? If so, get the help you need. Is there a hand jack or other tool you might use to move it and save yourself from lifting it? If so, take advantage of it and avoid potential strain.
    • Know your limits and strength level before attempting to lift something that could be too heavy.
    • If you can push or pull a given object, push it. Pulling objects can strain your back.
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    Assume the proper lifting position.[6] Spread your feet apart. Place one leg slightly ahead of you. Lower yourself, bending at the knees, and keep your back straight up and down. Tighten your stomach muscles.
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    Rise slowly with the object. Push off the ground with your feet and rise slowly, keeping your back straight.[7] Keep the load close to your waist. If possible, keep the object lengthwise across your waist or in a vertical position rather than extending out from your waist. Try to keep the weight even
    • Do not twist, lean, or turn your hips or back while holding a heavy object.

Method 3
Sleeping Properly

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    Sleep on your side.[8] Bend your legs at the knee and bring them up slightly toward your body. Place a pillow between your knees. Lay the arm of the side of your body you’re not laying on across your side and thigh. Bring the arm on the side of your body that you’re laying on straight out from your shoulder and wrap it around your pillow, with your palm facing you.
    • You can sleep on either your left or right side.
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    Lie on your back when sleeping.[9] If you sleep on your back, lay a pillow beneath your knees so that they are slightly elevated. This will help you keep your lower back curved properly. For additional support, roll a small towel and place it beneath your lower back. Lay your head and neck on a pillow.
    • Lying on your back and lying on your side when sleeping are equally good positions for avoiding back pain.
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    Go to sleep on your stomach.[10] If you do not like sleeping on your back or side, you can sleep on your stomach. Normally, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach, since it can be hard on your back. However, you can do so by putting a pillow beneath your pelvis and lower part of your abdomen. If you can use a pillow without straining your back, do so. Otherwise, sleep without a pillow.

Method 4
Exercising to Avoid Back Pain

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    Increase flexibility in your lower back.[11] Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your legs at the knee in a forty-five degree angle and keep your feet on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles (the muscles of your stomach) so that they push out and away from you. Hold the position for five seconds, then relax your muscles. Next, flatten your back against the ground. Try to bring your abdominal muscles down and keep your back flush with the ground. Repeat the cycle five times each day.
    • Try to add one or two reps each week as you grow more flexible. Aim for a maximum of thirty each day.
    • You should be able to feel a flexing in your lower back at each pushing out and pulling in of your abdominal muscles.
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    Strengthen your core muscles. Your core includes muscles in your torso and back (such as the rectus abdominis, obliques, and latissimus dorsi) that protect your spine.[12] Strengthening these muscles may help you avoid back pain, especially pain caused by soft tissue injury or back muscle strain.[13]
    • Exercises to try include the pelvic tilt, sit-ups on an exercise ball, back extensions, cat curls, and more. Speak with a physical therapist or certified trainer to help you determine the best, safest way to strengthen your core and to ensure you are using the proper form while exercising.[14]
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    Squeeze your shoulder blades.[15] In a seated position, extend your arms out directly in front of you, then pull your elbows straight back. Try to make your elbows touch behind you. Hold the position for five seconds. Relax briefly, then repeat. Do this exercise twice each night and three times each morning.
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    Lift light weights. Lifting weights can strengthen your back, but you must always maintain proper form or risk hurting your back. Focus on free weights and bench presses. Avoid dead lifts and heavy lifting. When you lift something -- even when you’re outside the gym -- keep your back straight. Squat to pick objects up and push off the ground with your knees.[16] Do not bend over at the waist and attempt to pick objects up. :
    • Get a partner to help you lift things that are too heavy.
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    Do low-impact aerobic exercises.[17] Vigorous walking and swimming, for instance, will strengthen your back and improve muscle function. Try to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. If you swim, try to progressively lengthen the distance and number of laps you can perform to build back strength.
    • With any exercise, don't over-stretch or over-exercise. This can pull or strain your muscles and leave you in pain.
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    Do a knee-to-chest stretch.[18] Lay on your back and bring your left knee to your chest. Hold it there by placing both hands over the knee. Maintain the position for five seconds. Put that leg down and bring up the right leg. Hold it again for five seconds by placing both hands over the knee. Put that leg down, then bring up both legs to your chest. Place your right hand over your right knee and your left hand over your left knee. Hold both knees to your chest for five seconds. Repeat the cycle each day, once in the morning and once at night.
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    Do a lower back rotational stretch.[19] Lie on your back. Bend your knees so that your legs form approximately forty-five degree angles. Place your feet flat on the floor. Lift your shoulders slightly off the ground. Roll both knees slowly to the right as far as you can. Your right knee should touch the ground. Hold the position for ten seconds. Bring your knees back up to center and roll both legs over to the left as far as possible. Your left knee should touch the ground. Repeat the whole cycle daily once in the morning and once at night.
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    Try a seated lower back rotational stretch.[20] Sit on a stool or an armless chair. Cross your left leg over your right leg and place the elbow of your right arm against your left knee. Twist your torso gently to the left and hold for ten seconds when you’ve reached your maximum turn. Repeat on the opposite side by crossing your right leg over your left and placing your left elbow against your right knee. Repeat three times in the morning and twice each night.
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    Do a bridge exercise.[21] Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal and gluteal (butt) muscles. With your shoulders and head on the floor, raise your pelvis so that your trunk and thighs are parallel to each other. Hold the position for as long as it takes you to breathe in and out deeply three times. Lower your pelvis and relax for a few seconds. Repeat five times daily.
    • As you begin to gain strength in your back, slowly add more reps to your bridge exercise regimen. Add one or two each week and aim for a maximum of thirty per day.
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    Do a cat stretch.[22] Lower yourself down on your hands and knees. Your knees should be at ninety degree angles and your hand should extend straight out from your shoulder. Gently arch your back by pulling your stomach up and in. Hold it for five seconds. Return your back to its original position and rest for a few seconds. Then, push your back in and your stomach out. Hold it for five seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat three times in the morning and twice at night.

Method 5
Losing Weight to Avoid Back Pain

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    Declare your commitment to lose weight. If you’re overweight, your back muscles and spine will be working overtime and could easily be strained. Attaining a healthy weight is thus an easy way to avoid back pain, and people find it easier to stay committed to their weight-loss goals and promises when they make a public declaration to do so.[23]
    • Tell a friend or family member you intend to lose weight when you begin your weight loss. If anyone asks why, tell them that you want to avoid back pain and live a healthier life.
    • Surround yourself with positive people who support your effort.
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    Eat a healthy diet.[24] Eat primarily fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Supplement your diet with lean protein like tofu, nuts, and seeds. Do not deprive yourself of a particular food, but avoid eating processed foods that are heavy in salt, sugar, and fat.
    • Your diet should consist of foods you enjoy and are comfortable with eating every day. Do not adopt extreme diets that you will be unable to maintain over the long term.
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    Recognize and avoid trigger foods.[25] Trigger foods are those that inspire overeating. When you are around trigger foods, you may feel powerless to stop eating. Keep a food journal detailing your daily consumption habits and look it over at the end of the day. If you notice patterns of overeating with one particular food, avoid buying it, buy it in smaller portions, or buy it less frequently.
    • For instance, if you habitually sit down and eat an entire bag of chips while watching TV, buy chips only once or twice each month as a treat.
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    Track the number of calories you ingest and burn. The easiest way to track the calories you’ve taken in and burned is through fitness tracking devices or software. For instance, FitBit is a great device to help you stay motivated and track exactly how many calories you’ve burned each day. There are many phone apps like Libra with similar capabilities. These devices allow you to visualize your progress and share your gains with social media.
    • If you want to go the low-tech route, use a food journal. On one page, write down the drinks and foods you consumed that day and their respective calorie counts. On the opposite page, write down the exercises you did and estimate the calories spent doing each. Tally the totals on each page at the end of each day. If the calories you burned exceeds the number of calories you took in, you’ll be on your way to losing weight.
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    Get a workout buddy to go to the gym or take bike rides with.[26] Working out can be fun, as well as healthy. Working out with a friend can make exercise even more enjoyable. Choose a friend who is equally committed to losing weight and encourages you to push yourself and meet your goals.
    • Even if you don’t want a workout buddy, surround yourself with positive people who support your weight loss effort.
    • Avoid workout buddies who only want to goof off and talk when you’re at the gym together. They will only hinder your progress.
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    When you’ve reached a healthy weight, start eating more. Continue your exercise regimen so as to continue developing your back muscles. Check your fitness tracking device or food journal to ensure you’re burning and taking in a roughly equal amount of calories each day. By keeping your calorie input and output even, you’ll remain at your current weight.
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    Don’t bother with diet pills or wonder cures.[27][28] Many people believe that by raising their metabolism or trying fad diets, they will lose a significant amount of weight. While these things may help, their impact is small. The only proven way to lose weight and keep it off is by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.


  • Avoid harsh twisting, lurching, lunging, jumping stiffly and excessive straining.


  • If you do not take the steps to prevent back pain and change your lifestyle, the pain may extend to your neck and shoulders.

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Categories: Back and Joint Care