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How to prevent low back pain

If your work involves heavy lifting, sitting at the computer for long stretches, or driving far distances, you are at risk for low back pain. Take the following steps and you may be less likely to develop back troubles.

  1. Use good posture at all times. This is important when you are standing or sitting because the muscles in your back and the bones in your spine are always working to keep your body upright.
  2. Take care when lifting. See: Tips for How to Lift and Bend.
  3. Exercise regularly. Remember that finding the right balance is important. Finding balance also means doing exercises that don't strain your back, like swimming, walking, and cycling with proper seat adjustment. Always include a warm up, back stretches, and cool down.
  4. Lose weight. Carrying extra pounds, especially around your waist, puts additional stress on your spine.
  5. Quit smoking. Cigarettes put you at increased risk for back problems. This may be because tobacco causes poor blood circulation. Or, it may be because when you smoke, you are more likely to have other bad habits, like not exercising.
  6. Sleep wisely. This means sleeping on your side, not your stomach, on a firm mattress. If you are only comfortable sleeping on your back, use a pillow under your knees for support.
  7. Learn to relax. Stress and unhappiness at home or work make it more likely that you'll develop back pain. It is important, therefore, to practice some form of relaxation regularly. Listen to calming music, meditate, or do tai chi. See: Reducing stress may be helpful.
  8. Consider a lumbar support belt. Sometimes, if you have had back pain related to your job, it helps to wear a support belt while you are lifting or performing the activities that bring on your back pain. The science about this is controversial, meaning that it works for some and doesn't work for others. Talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you. If you do regular stretching and strengthening and you haven't had back pain in a long time, it is probably not necessary to use such a belt.


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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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