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How can I prevent back pain?

Practice good body mechanics. The term “body mechanics” refers to how you move and hold your body. Developing good habits is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from painful back episodes. The table below lists some Do’s and Don’t’s for good body mechanics.

  • runningGet regular exercise. Regular activity keeps your body strong and flexible to help support your back. Establish and maintain a regular exercise program that includes aerobic training (such as walking, swimming, or cycling) as well as stomach and back strengthening.
  • Manage your weight. Extra pounds put extra stress on your back. To lose weight, eat more fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods. Keep portions small, avoid junk food and exercise regularly! Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid activities that require heavy lifting, trunk twisting or bodily vibration. These activities can place stress and strain on your back. Avoid them when possible - and always use proper body mechanics.
  • Reduce stress. Stress has also been shown to affect low back pain. Stress can cause muscular tension and sometimes spasm. Look at ways to reduce or manage the stress in your life.
  • Don't smoke. Studies show that smokers have twice as much back pain as non-smokers. Ask your doctor about resources to quit and learn more about our Tobacco Treatment Programs.
Activity DO DON'T
  • DO lift and carry objects close to your body.
  • DO bend your knees as you lift - make your legs do the hard work, not your back.
  • DO turn with your feet as you lift.
  • DO know your own strength. Only lift as much as you can handle comfortably.
  • DON'T lift objects away from your body with arms outstretched.
  • DON'T lift with your legs straight.
  • DON'T lift and twist in one motion.
  • DON'T lift objects that are too heavy for you.
  • DO sit in an upright chair with your knees level with or higher than your hips. Keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a vertical line.
  • DO sit with a rolled-up towel or other support behind your lower back.
  • DO stretch and walk around after 30 minutes of sitting.
  • DON'T slouch in your chair.
  • DON'T sit without back support.
  • DON'T sit for a long period of time.
  • Don't cross your legs.
  • DO put one foot on a low box or stool. Switch feet every few minutes.
  • DO have your work surface at a comfortable height.
  • DON'T stand for a long period of time without changing position.
  • DON'T use a work surface that is too low (requires you to bend over) or too high (encourages you to raise your shoulders).
  • DO use a firm mattress or put a board beneath your mattress to add support.
  • DO sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or sleep on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between them.
  • DON'T sleep on a too-soft mattress.
  • DON'T stay in bed too long.
  • DON'T sleep on your stomach.

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