Preventing Low Back Pain

In daily life, we often take our low back for granted and assume that our back is strong and infallible. We often ignore the sometimes dangerous positions we put ourselves in, which increase our risk of injury or pain to the low back. Almost everything you do requires the use of the low back. It is important to understand that by taking some basic preventative measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of injury.

Maintaining a regular physical fitness regimen can be very helpful in preventing injury to your lower back. Participating in regular strengthening exercises can also help the strength and flexibility in your back, core, and leg muscles. If you must sit for long periods, remember to take frequent breaks every 20 minutes or so, to stand up and stretch. Also, using proper body mechanics while at work, play, or performing your daily activities will help protect your lower back.

Below are a few tips additional tips from our physical therapists on proper body mechanics for daily living:



When lifting a heavy object, position your body directly in front of it to lift, and then carry it close to your body. Bend your knees so your legs, not your back, bear the weight. When carrying the item, turn your feet instead of twisting your back.


Wearing Backpacks

Low back pain doesn’t just affect adults. Children can be affected by the backpacks they wear to school. To help children maintain proper form, physical therapists advise that backpack contents should be limited to 10 to 15% of the child’s body weight. Wearing both straps will keep weight distributed properly. The backpack should rest evenly in the middle of the back—it should not extend below the lower back. Organize the contents by placing the heavier items closest to the back.



Whether you are moving snow or mulch, shoveling is typically a repetitive action. Use a shovel with a shaft that is not too short (causing you to bend more to lift) or too long (making the weight at the end heavier). Keep your back straight while lifting and avoid twisting the spine while shoveling. Stepping in the direction you are moving instead of bending the back can help you avoid next-day fatigue. Finally, take frequent breaks to stand straight and walk.



When gardening, support your back by bending at the knees to avoid straining. Keep one foot on the ground while kneeling. If you must kneel, use knee pads to absorb some of the pressure. Use a wheelbarrow to move heavy items and change positions frequently to reduce stiffness.


At the Office

When at your workstation, use an upright chair that has good back or lumbar support. The monitor should be positioned so your head and shoulders are relaxed and you don’t have to crane your neck. Also, keep your mouse close to your body. Remember to do easy exercises at your desk, such as backward shoulder rolls, and get up frequently to stand straight and/or walk.



During long drives, stop every hour or so to stand up and move around. You can also place a rolled up towel behind your back at approximately waist level to provide lumbar support while driving.


During and After Pregnancy

Increased hormones create added flexibility in a woman’s body to prepare her for childbirth. This flexibility can affect proper body mechanics and cause LBP. Fortunately, LBP during pregnancy may be addressed with exercise and education in proper posture. Based on a patient’s medical history and what trimester she is in, a physical therapist will recommend appropriate exercise.

After childbirth, fatigue and physical demands may cause a new mother’s preexisting conditions, such as LBP, to worsen. Preventative steps can be taken by keeping baby carriers close to the body as you lift them or when lifting a child, by bending the hips and engaging the legs instead of bending the back.

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Note: The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physical therapist. Neither Therapeutic Associates Inc., or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.

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