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Prevent Back Pain

woman stretching

The Basics

One of the best ways to prevent back pain is to keep your back muscles strong. Follow these steps to help protect your back and prevent back pain:

  • Do back strengthening and stretching exercises at least 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Sit and stand up straight.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. If you do lift something heavy, bend your legs and keep your back straight.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight to help lower the strain on your back.

Learn more about back pain and how to prevent it.

There are different kinds of back pain.
Back pain can feel like a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain. Back pain often gets better without any treatment. Find out when to call a doctor or nurse.

What is the difference between acute and chronic back pain?
Acute (“ah-KYOOT”) back pain lasts less than 6 weeks. It’s often caused by an accident, a fall, or lifting something too heavy. Acute back pain usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks and gets better without any treatment.

Back pain that lasts for more than 3 months is called chronic (“KRAH-nik”) back pain. Chronic back pain is much less common than acute back pain. Most chronic back pain can be treated without surgery.

Find out about ways to treat back pain.

Who gets back pain?
Almost everyone has back pain at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor or nurse. People are more likely to experience back pain as they get older.

Many people hurt their backs at work when they lift, push, or pull something too heavy. People may also be at risk for back pain if they:

  • Have poor posture (don’t stand or sit up straight)
  • Aren’t physically active
  • Are overweight
  • Fall or have an accident
  • Have a health problem that causes back pain (like arthritis or cancer)
  • Smoke

Take Action!

Take care of your back to avoid back pain. Preventing back pain is easier than treating it.

Strengthen your back.
There are things you can do to make your back stronger and lower your risk of back pain:

If you have a health condition, your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. Get tips on staying active with a disability.

Focus on good posture.
Good posture can help prevent back pain.

  • Try not to slouch when sitting or standing.
  • Sit up straight with your back against the back of your chair and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
  • Stand tall with your head up and shoulders back.

Find out how to have good posture while sitting at a computer.

Lift correctly.
Lift things with your legs, not your back. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees or at the hips. Get help if the load is too heavy for you to lift alone. Get more tips on safe lifting. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Watch your weight.
If you are overweight, losing weight can put less strain on your back.

Get enough calcium.
Strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis (“os-tee-oh-puh-ROH-sis”), a leading cause of back pain. Be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D every day.

Prevent back injuries at work.
Take steps to protect your back on the job. Back injuries are the most common type of workplace injury.

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Content last updated on: August 22, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133