4 Steps to Reducing Back Pain

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1. Know how your spine works.
The best way to take care of your spine and prevent back pain is to begin with a good understanding of how the spine works. By understanding how your spine works when you are performing daily tasks or moving through your day, you will be able to care for your spine and keep it working for a long time with fewer problems and less back pain.

2. Incorporate safe body mechanics into activities.
Use good body mechanics during daily tasks at home and work. What does that mean? Good body mechanics means keeping your spine in a balanced safe position while you move. By remembering a few simple ideas, you can help to avoid back injury and pain. First, you should use your leg and arm muscles when bending and lifting—not your back muscles. Secondly, keep your back straight when bending and lifting. And last but not least, make sure to bend at your hips and knees, not at your waist.

correct bending at the hip and knee
An example of correctly bending at the hips and knees.


3. Exercise on a regular basis.
Regular maintenance of things we own helps to keep them working efficiently, safely and with less effort. The same is true of the spine.

  • Exercising on a regular basis helps to maintain a healthy spine long term.
  • Regular exercise helps to increase endurance and reduces fatigue.

But don't I get enough exercise at work?
Some people think their jobs provide enough exercise—particularly jobs that are physical and may include manual labor. Unfortunately this isn't true. People need daily exercise to condition and strengthen their muscles to perform job tasks efficiently and safely.

Exercise can be fun! There are many types of exercise. One way to ensure success when choosing to begin an exercise program is to choose some type of exercise that fits into your lifestyle. If exercise is convenient and accessible, you will be more likely to continue exercising on a long-term basis. For example, deciding to swim daily or do water aerobics without easy access to a pool year round would make consistency difficult and success less likely.

A common exercise that many people begin successfully with is walking. Walking is generally easy to fit into a daily schedule, can be done any day of the year, and only requires a good pair of walking shoes.

Remember, whatever type of exercise you choose, always start out small (10 minutes vs 60 minutes), and gradually increase your exercise time. This will help to ensure your success at getting started and sticking with an exercise program. Add one or two stretching exercises, like a calf stretch, to your routine for an additional benefit.

correct bending at the hip and knee
An example of a calf stretch.

4. Fuel your body with proper nutrition.
Eating a healthy diet provides the fuel your body needs to produce energy. And energy is required to do work, meaning the tasks we do throughout the day, such as work tasks and exercise. Proper nutrition also helps to maintain your ideal body weight. Weight management is a good way to control stress on the joints in your body, including the spine.

Not sure where to begin to learn about proper nutrition and setting up a healthy diet for you and your lifestyle? Then check out Introduction to Nutrition. By incorporating these tips into your daily life, you can promote a healthy spine—and lifestyle—for years to come.

Updated on: 07/19/16
Erik van Doorne, DPT, Cert MDT
This article from Dr. Ponzo highlights four important steps in the prevention and reduction of back pain. Prevention of back pain is an important service all physical therapists offer. These four steps which include education, proper body mechanics and posture, exercises and nutrition are the first steps everyone should take to safely reduce the occurrence and reoccurrence of back pain. Incorporating these four steps into your daily routine will contribute to a decreased need for treatment for lower back pain. Prevention is still better than treatment.