How to avoid back pain

Back pain is extremely common and can be caused by many simple everyday activities. Help prevent back pain and protect your spine with these important steps.

How to avoid back pain

How to avoid back pain

Back pain can be the result of trauma, such as a fall or a car accident. But most often back pain is the result of an everyday activity done incorrectly — activities as common as twisting to reach or lift an object, sitting at a computer in the same position for hours, bending over to vacuum, and carrying shopping bags. The good news is that back pain prevention isn’t all that difficult, often requiring just a few adjustments that will soon become second nature.

Here are six simple but effective back pain prevention tips.

  1. Exercise. One of the most important things you can do for back pain prevention is to get up and get moving. Why does exercise prevent back pain? Muscles are meant to move, says Robin Lustig, DC, a chiropractor at New Jersey Total Health Center in Lodi and Pompton Plains, N.J. If you aren’t in good shape, you’re more likely to hurt your back and feel pain when you do even simple movements, such as lifting your child from his crib. “Also, exercise helps keep your joints fluid,” Dr. Lustig says. Another reason exercise prevents back pain is that exercise helps you keep your weight down — being overweight, especially around your stomach, can put added strain on your back.
  2. Eat right. “If you maintain good eating habits, you not only will maintain a healthy weight, but you also will not put unnecessary stress on your body,” Lustig says. A steady diet of excessively spicy or fast food can strain your nervous system, which is going to create back problems, she adds. Conversely, a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grains will keep your digestive tract on track. “If your intestines are working and functioning properly, that will maintain your spine because your inside and your outside relate to one another,” Lustig says. “I have found that many people who come in complaining of low back pain also have irritated bowels.”
  3. Sleep sideways. You don’t want to sleep flat on your back. The best position for sleeping is on your side. If you must sleep on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen to help take stress off your back. Having a supportive mattress and pillow for your head are vital as well. “Getting enough, restful sleep is always an important part of maintaining good health,” Lustig says. Also, if you exercise during the day, you sleep better at night.
  4. Maintain proper posture. “People sitting at their computer for seven or eight hours a day is keeping me in business,” says Lustig. “People slouch over their computers and their telephones when they’re texting, and they don’t realize the damage they’re doing to their backs and the pain they could be causing.” Be sure to work at an ergonomically correct workstation, both at the office and at home, and break up long periods in front of the computer with stretching exercises. If you practice good posture, you will maintain the natural curves of your back and help keep it strong.
  5. Reduce stress. You probably don’t realize how much stress can impact your back health. Stress causes you to tense your muscles, and constant tension of this kind can cause back pain. Any activity that helps you reduce stress will help prevent back pain, Lustig says. Stress reduction activities can include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing, tai chi, and guided imagery.
  6. Quit smoking. It’s well known that smoking raises your risk for heart disease and cancer, including lung and colon cancers, but most people don’t realize that smoking also can be a cause of persistent back pain. Research also shows smoking can make existing back pain worse. It’s not entirely clear how smoking affects back health, but one possibility is that it narrows blood vessels. Narrowed blood vessels result in less oxygen and nutrients reaching the spine and, in turn, it becomes more susceptible to injury and slower to heal.

You can reduce your risk for back pain with simple lifestyle changes. However, if you should experience back pain, don’t ignore it. It could be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you should do to find and treat the cause.

Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist with experience in hospital-based acute care and outpatient therapy with both children and adults.

Chronic or acute low back pain is a common problem and can affect your work, family, and recreational activities. While there is no specific cure for low back pain, there are some steps you can take now to start managing the symptoms coming from your back. And there are some things you should stop doing as a part of treating your back pain.

Stop Slouching

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Gianni Diliberto / Getty Images

First and foremost, stop slouching. One of the most common cause of low back pain is poor sitting posture. The strain on the back while sitting in a slouched position can cause excessive pressure on the joints, muscles, and discs, causing pain.  

Learn to sit with correct posture and maintain that posture at all times to help decrease or eliminate your low back pain. Also be sure your workspace is set up properly at home and at work.

Stop Avoiding Exercise

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David Lees / Getty Images

It may hurt to get started, but exercise for your back is proven to be beneficial for most low back pain. It helps keep your core muscles strong, provides increased circulation to your joints and discs, and it gives you a sense of well-being. Plus, being a couch potato can really put your low back in a poor posture, leading to pain.  

Stop Searching for a Miracle Cure

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nano / Getty Images

Stop searching for a miracle cure for your back pain. We’ve all seen the advertisements that promise a miracle cure for your low back pain.

Hanging by your feet on an inversion table, rubbing healing balms on your back, or spending money on fancy computerized traction devices all sound effective, but the evidence indicates that many of these miracle cures are not beneficial.  

Stop Lifting Heavy Things

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heshphoto / Getty Images

One of the top causes of low back pain is frequent heavy lifting. If your job requires that you lift heavy items, ask your employer if special equipment (or an extra set of hands) is available to help ease the load on your lower back.  

This goes hand-in-hand with the next back pain no-no—repetitive bending.

Stop Repetitive Bending

How to avoid back pain

Another common cause of low back pain is frequent forward bending. Bending forward a lot can cause increased pressure on the discs in the back and can lead to muscle aches and pains.

Limit your forward bending, and be sure to perform low back exercises that focus on backward bending to help offset the repetitive forward bending.  

Stop Looking for a Specific Diagnosis

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Porta Images / Getty Images

Stop focusing on a specific diagnosis. Up to 85% of low back pain can be classified as “non-specific.”   This means that the origin of your pain cannot be localized to one specific structure or problem.

While common diagnostic tests for low back pain can show the bones, discs, and joints with great detail, no test can tell the exact cause of your pain with 100% accuracy.

Stop Trying Passive Treatments

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Lea Patterson Service Photo Library / Getty Images

Passive treatments like heat, ice or ultrasound may feel good, but their effect is usually only temporary. Most research indicates that active self-care exercise and postural correction is an effective remedy for low back pain.  

A visit to your physical therapist can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.

Stop Listening to Back Pain Horror Stories

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Stop listening to other people’s horror stories. You know the scenario: You are bent over in obvious pain, waiting to see the doctor, and the person next to you tells you a 10-minute tale of how their Uncle Gordon had low back pain that required injections and surgery. But the pain still didn’t go away.

Stop listening to these terrible stories. Most low back pain is short-lived and can be managed quite effectively with exercise and postural correction. Of course, some low back conditions are serious and require surgery, but that is a conversation you should have with your doctor, not the guy in the waiting room.  

Stop Smoking

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Seb Oliver / Getty Images

If you smoke, you have probably heard of the negative effects that it can have on your health. Some studies indicate that smoking can also increase your chance of having low back pain.  

Talk to your doctor today to come up with a plan to quit smoking to help your low back pain.

Stop Waiting for the Pain to Go Away

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If you have had pain for more than a week or two, see your doctor or physical therapist. (Many states allow direct access to physical therapy.) While it is noble to try to manage the pain yourself, the earlier you start treatment, the better your chances are of making a smooth recovery and quickly returning to normal function.

Back pain can limit your ability to move comfortably and can prevent you from enjoying your normal recreational activities. If you have back pain, check in with your physical therapist to help you get back to your normal lifestyle quickly and safely.  

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Huma Sheikh, MD, is a board-certified neurologist, specializing in migraine and stroke, and affiliated with Mount Sinai of New York.

If you’re experiencing back pain, or even a stiff neck, look to your lifestyle. The way you sleep, lift, and twist your body may be responsible. But preventing back pain may actually be the simplest way to deal with it. Follow these 10 tips—you’ll feel better now and ward off any future problems.

How to avoid back pain

Lift Safely

Safe lifting involves using your legs to spare your back. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and keep the object being lifted close to your body.

It is also a good idea to be aware of unsafe lifting techniques, so that you can avoid them. Unsafe lifting techniques usually involve positions that will cause you strain when you add a load to them.

Minimize and Avoid Twisting Motions

The use of twisting motions should be carefully monitored and scaled back or eliminated as appropriate. When lifting heavy objects, twisting should be completely avoided.

When doing heavy work, such as housework, try to keep twisting to a minimum too. In other activities, pay close attention to how you are moving your spine as well as any warning signs, such as pain or tightness, that may indicate trouble.

Scale back on the twisting according to the warning signs your body gives you.

Drink Plenty of Water

Our bodies are comprised of approximately 70 percent water. Enough water keeps us fluid, rather than stiff.

Drinking plenty of water enhances the height of intervertebral disks, keeping them the healthy shock absorbers they are.

Water is necessary for nearly every bodily process, so it’s good to have in generous supply—at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day. It is almost impossible to drink too much water.

Stay Active and Strengthen Your Abs

Exercise and activity keep the muscles of the spine strong. The most important muscles to strengthen to avoid back pain are the abdominals.

Include stretching in your fitness program to avoid stiffness, which causes pain. Another reason to stay flexible is that stiff muscles are a precursor to injury.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is generally an excellent way to prevent all kinds of diseases and discomforts. For the spine, body weight control avoids compression and loading of the intervertebral disks, prevents postural abnormalities (such as anterior pelvic tilt), and interrupts a sedentary lifestyle which can be responsible for stiff and/or weak muscles.

Research Sleeping Positions

Finding a sleeping position that works for you can help you avoid placing unnecessary strains on your back or neck. Doctors tend to vary when recommending ideal sleep positions. So, trusting your comfort levels and using your own judgement are good accompaniments to their advice.

Warm-Up When Exercising

When exercising, warm-ups are a must. Warm-up means 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity just prior to the exercise session. Recommendations by experts vary as to whether the warm-up period should include stretching.

The purpose of a warm-up is to gradually acclimate the muscles to a more intense activity level to prevent injury, and therefore pain.

Cool Down

The cool down period after an exercise period must include stretching. During cool down, your muscles are still warm from exercising, so they are very receptive to stretching.

Stretching will be less painful during cool down, as well. Stretching relieves muscle tightness, which is one cause of back pain. Stretching also helps to balance the action of muscles, enhancing ideal alignment and relieving joint strain.

Interrupt Long Periods of Sitting

If you sit for long periods of time, force yourself to get up from your chair as much as your work environment will permit. Sitting loads the spine and compresses the disks, leading to disk problems. Slaving over a computer for long periods of time can also cause neck and posture problems, such as kyphosis .

Try a Holistic Approach

Holistic bodywork techniques and systems are a great way to keep the structures of your spine tuned up for a lifetime.Try any one of there:

  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Feldenkrais
  • Chiropractics
  • Acupuncture

What can I do if I have acute low back pain?

The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.

The key to recovering from acute low back pain (abrupt, intense pain that subsides after a relatively short period) is maintaining the normal curve of the spine (hollow or lordosis). Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.

Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:

Sitting

  • Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time (10 to 15 minutes).
  • Sit with a back support (such as a rolled-up towel) at the curve of your back.
  • Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.

Here’s how to find a good sitting position when you’re not using a back support or lumbar roll:

Correct sitting position without lumbar support.

Correct sitting position with lumbar support.

  • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
  • Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Sit in a high-back, firm chair with arm rests. Sitting in a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won’t support the curve of your back.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from a sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

Driving

  • Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.

Standing

  • Stand with your head up, shoulders straight, chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and your hips tucked in.
  • Avoid standing in the same position for a long time.
  • If possible, adjust the height of the work table to a comfortable level.
  • When standing, try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box. After several minutes, switch your foot position.
  • While working in the kitchen, open the cabinet under the sink and rest one foot on the inside of the cabinet. Change feet every five to 15 minutes.

Stooping, squatting, and kneeling

Decide which position to use. Kneel when you have to go down as far as a squat but need to stay that way for awhile. For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your stomach muscles, and lower yourself using your legs.

Lifting objects

  • Try to avoid lifting objects if at all possible.
  • If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
  • Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
  • To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
  • Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firmly on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don’t jerk the object up to your body.
  • Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  • If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  • Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
  • To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles, and bend your hips and knees.

Reaching overhead

  • Use a foot stool or chair to bring yourself up to the level of what you are reaching.
  • Get your body as close as possible to the object you need.
  • Make sure you have a good idea of how heavy the object is you are going to lift.
  • Use two hands to lift.

Sleeping and lying down

  • Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary.
  • If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it might be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what’s most comfortable for you.
  • Use a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist might be helpful.
  • Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a lumbar roll or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.
  • When standing up from a lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees, and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.

Other helpful tips

  • Avoid activities that require bending forward at the waist or stooping.
  • When coughing or sneezing, try to stand up and bend slightly backward to increase the curve in your spine.
  • Sleep on your side with your knees bent. You can also put a pillow between your knees.
  • Try not to sleep on your stomach.

If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/23/2020.

About 80% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. Fortunately, lower back pain (LBP) usually gets better on its own. However, for some it may become an annoying recurring condition.

Lower back pain is not a diagnosis, it’s a symptom. We can’t always determine the underlying medical cause of lower back pain, but we can try to identify as much as possible about the root issues.

If you come to our office with back pain, we’ll start by getting your medical history. And we’ll perform a physical examination. If appropriate, we may do some additional tests.

Rather than just treating symptoms, the medical history, exam and tests will help us treat the underlying cause. This allows us to provide a better outcome.

Acute Lower Back Pain

LBP typically gets better in a few days or weeks. We call these cases acute LBP. The causes of acute LBP are usually difficult to identify. The cause is often ‘strain’ or ‘sprain,’ meaning muscle or ligament-related pain. We usually don’t need to find the root cause since it goes away in matter of days to weeks.

Chronic Lower Back Pain

When LBP lasts longer than three months, we call it chronic lower back pain (CLBP). Causes of CLBP are difficult to identify. However, we should always try to find the causes.

The careful process of finding the cause can help assure that there isn’t a life-threatening condition. We can eliminate concerns about paralysis or becoming a person who uses a wheelchair. We can also establish that you can continue to work and exercise, even if you are in pain.

You may be asked to provide a complete patient history. We’ll conduct a physical examination and, when appropriate, imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan. The specialized tests can help us find the causes of chronic LBP.

Research continues to give us a better understanding of CLBP. Genetics may play a major role as an underlying cause. So, choose your parents carefully!

Preventing Lower Back Pain

You can reduce the chances that you experience lower back pain by making these positive lifestyle changes.

  1. Eat healthfully so you keep your body weight within a healthy range.
  2. Get regular exercise to keep your back muscles fit and flexible.
  3. Avoid prolonged sitting.
  4. When you do sit, maintain good posture.
  5. Use proper techniques for lifting (lift with your legs rather than your back).
  6. Avoid frequent bending and twisting. Especially avoid bending, twisting and lifting at the same time (like shoveling snow).
  7. Avoid situations where your spine is vibrated for long periods of time.
  8. Get enough sleep each day.
  9. Stop smoking.
  10. If you have depression and/or anxiety, visit with your health care clinician about ways to manage it.

Ask your health care professional for guidance about steps we’ve mentioned for preventing lower back pain .

When Should You See a Health Care Professional?

If you have back pain that doesn’t improve within about six weeks, see your health care clinician or a back specialist.

See a clinician immediately if:

  • The pain becomes intolerable.
  • You develop leg numbness or weakness.
  • You have difficulty in controlling bladder or bowel.

For lower back, shoulder or knee pain, request a free injury evaluation from select Aurora locations. Just complete the short online form to get started .

Treating Lower Back Pain

If you suffer from lower back pain, treatment may include:

  • Chiropractic care .
  • Massage therapy .
  • Physical therapy .
  • Acupuncture .
  • Injections of pain medication or a special bone lubricant.
  • Surgery .

Need an appointment with a health care professional? Schedule one online . Don’t have a doctor, you can find one online , too!

How to avoid back pain

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While gardening may bring calmness to your mind by reducing anxiety and stress, long periods of planting can take a toll on your back or make your existing back pain worse.

Stretching before you begin garden can help prepare your body for time in the garden.
See:
Stretching for Back Pain Relief

That doesn’t mean you need to cross gardening off your list. With a few adaptations and a dash of creativity, you can still exercise your green thumb by following these 11 strategies for minimizing back injury:

1. Warm-up before you start

Gardening can be a real workout, so warming up your muscles first is a good idea. Try a brisk five-minute walk and some stretching exercises. One relatively gentle stretch is the back-flexion exercise, in which you lie down on your back, then pull both knees to your chest while bringing your head forward.

If you have back pain, then work with your physician or physical therapist to find the right stretches for you.

2. Lift with support

Lifting heavy pots, bushes, and full watering cans without proper back support can injure the discs, muscles, and/or ligaments in your back.

To lift in an ergonomically supported manner, begin by squatting, and not bending at your waist. Use both hands to hold the object, keeping it close to your body, and slowly straighten your legs as you stand.

To minimize lifting, use a wagon, dolly, or other lifting aids to carry heavy items from place to place. Fill large watering cans just halfway, and consider alternative watering options, such as soaker hoses or automated irrigation systems.

Depending on your back problem, chores that involve heavy lifting and twisting may be best left to others.

3. Take frequent breaks

It’s easy to lose track of time when you love being out in the yard. Take a water bottle with you as a reminder to take frequent breaks and hydrate yourself. If you’ve been in one position for a while, do some stretches during these breaks.

Also, avoid doing the same kind of task, such as pruning, for a long period. Switch to another activity and rotate these tasks periodically.

4. Get support from kneelers and chairs

Getting down on the ground—and then standing back upright—can be painful or even impossible, depending on your level of pain and flexibility. Heavy-duty kneelers, especially those with raised, padded handles can help you get up and down, allowing you to use your arm strength to aid in the process. Kneelers usually include a well-cushioned base to reduce stress and impact on your knees and back. Many kneelers also convert to a low chair.

5. Add cushioning with knee pads

Wearable or moveable knee pads are a good option if you feel more comfortable kneeling at ground level. Multiple types of foam are often used to maximize cushioning. Be sure to purchase strong, good quality knee pads, which fit correctly and have sturdy straps. Memory foam pads are another option to consider.

6. Use garden scooters to avoid twisting

Stretching and twisting can put added stress on the joints and discs in your spine. One way to minimize twisting is to use a wheeled scooter. Scooters range in size from small scooters made to fit in tight garden spaces to larger scooters with baskets.

7. Try out specialized tools

Long-handled tools can eliminate much of the bending required by planting and weeding. For example, long-handled trowels and cultivators can be helpful if bending forward causes or worsens your back pain.

8. Garden while standing

Wall gardening, also called vertical gardening, is a trend of planting up, not across the ground. If bending is painful for you, working more at your eye level may be something to consider.

In one type of wall gardening, plants and soil are tucked into pockets made of felt or similar material, all mounted on a structure attached to a wall. The plants gradually grow together, forming a wall of flowers or greenery.

Other wall gardening styles use a metal or wooden structure along a wall, with places for attaching varying sizes of planters. The look can range from artsy to elegant.

9. Bring the plants to you

Raised-bed gardening using beds 2 to 3 feet tall offers plenty of planting options. Some of the sturdier raised beds include an edge where the gardener can sit while planting or harvesting vegetables, fruits, or herbs. Raised beds are often wheelchair accessible as well. Some raised beds are combined with a trellis ideal for climbing vegetables, such as peas.

Planters designed to attach to a balcony can also be a good option for flowers or a small herb garden.

10. Keep plants contained

Concentrating on growing plants in containers can make gardening much easier. In addition to flowers, larger containers can be well-suited to growing lettuce and other vegetables. Be sure to use extra-deep containers for tomatoes. Wheeled structures called plant caddies can be used under heavier pots to avoid lifting, pushing, and pulling.

11. Think outside the box

You may discover that you need to scale back your garden. Think about what’s most important and what you can let go—or assign to others. For example, if you can’t get by without your favorite colorful annuals, use them for a pop of color in a small area, and emphasize low-maintenance plants, including ground covers, elsewhere.

Consider having someone else handle the weeding. It’s a repetitive motion that causes more stress on your back than you might expect. If you can’t avoid weeding completely, mulch generously to discourage weeds. The mulch will also keep in moisture, so you won’t need to spend as much time watering.

If you enjoy gardening, try these 11 tips to help sustain your hobby and relax your mind with lesser episodes of back pain.

One of the most common injuries seen in the gym is pain in the lower back when deadlifting. How to relieve this and prevent it happening in the future?

First things first, warm up your back

This may sound simple but an often overlooked part of a training routine. Warming up can be done in a number of ways depending on your environment. Body weight exercises such as the cat-camel mobilises every segment of the spine and gets you ready to perform some great movement.

How to avoid back pain

Next, warm up the movement

Although it sounds simple, practicing the movement with a lighter load before and correctly drilling down the technique can transfer movement patterns well when the weight gets heavier and our body starts to fatigue. A simple tip is to complete practice sets first with 30% of your maximum weight and slowly build up until you are at your working set. As part of your warm up you could complete 4-5 sets of the movement.

Third, train your glute’s, hamstrings and abdominals, and train them well

Although we all like doing the big compound movements in our gym routine and don’t like the accessory work so much, this is what will build a strong base in your deadlift and keep you training harder and longer.

How to avoid back pain

Take rest days between your deadlift days

Deadlifting is fun, but back pain isn’t. Our bodies and soft tissues need time to adapt. It is this time which not only helps us build muscle and recover but it also helps our brains digest the technique and learn the movement to complete it more efficiently. Two to three days between deadlifting is suggested for a beginner to intermediate gym goer.

Keep moving your back throughout your day

When in pain we tend to reduce movement through fear of making it worse. We actually know general movement throughout the day can settle down back pain, and in fact helps us to get back on our feet and back to what we love doing. This could be anything from walking at lunchtime to doing a few stands ups and sit downs at the office.

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How to avoid back pain

Every spring, weekend golfers dust off their clubs and hit the links, eager to live out fantasies of playing like Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth. But if you’ve spent a long winter relaxing on the couch, your back may not be in golfing shape just yet.

Low, middle, and upper back pain are common symptoms of golf-related injuries. Golf is a game of muscle memory, and its repetitive motions can lead to inflammation, strains, and other injuries of the muscles and discs of the spine, throwing you off your game.

The pros who tee it up each spring at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas and the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth know the benefits of proper form and physical preparation for hours of practice and tournament rounds. And they have personal trainers who help them with stretching and flexibility.

The rest of us can still proactively reduce our risk of back pain and serious injury. Before you try to pound a 300-yard drive, consider these five simple steps to preserve your back health and enjoy a summer of golf.

5 ways to prevent back pain while golfing

1. Remember you’re not Tiger in his prime

Whether you’re a recent retiree who suddenly has more time to play or a once-a-month golfer, keep in mind that your body probably isn’t as limber or amenable to change as it once was. Trying to relive your glory days is a surefire way to tee up a pulled muscle or herniated disc.

“Your buddies are already on the course, and you’re running late, so you don’t take time to stretch. It happens to even the best golfers sometimes, but it’s a big mistake! Your spine health is worth so much more than the few minutes it will take you to limber up.”

As you get older, you have to prep your body differently to play golf. Take Tiger Woods, for example. He turned pro at age 20 with a powerful swing and the physical ability to recover quickly.

Over the years, Woods had to adapt his swing, warm-ups, and approach to the game. After multiple back and knee surgeries, he knows he must play smart. That’s exactly what he did when he won The Masters in April 2019, earning his 15th major title in one of the most impressive comebacks in sports history. (Unfortunately, Woods sustained major leg injuries in a single-car crash in February 2021 and the future of his professional golf career is in jeopardy.)

2. Warm up before you tee it up

Your buddies are already on the course, and you’re running late, so you don’t take the time to stretch. It happens to even the best golfers sometimes, but it’s a big mistake! Your spine health is worth so much more than the few minutes it will take you to limber up.

How to avoid back pain

In a best-case scenario, you’ll get to the course a little early and stretch before warming up and hitting balls on the practice range. That will give you the best chance to play well and avoid injuries.

Before you hit a ball, gently stretch your lower, middle, and upper back, as well as your shoulders and neck. Then take a few easy practice swings, focusing on your form and biomechanics. Slowly increase the range and speed of your practice swings until you get to a full extension.

3. Be prepared to alter your swing mechanics

As you get older, you’ll have to face your mortality in many ways. Golf is no exception. You might find season to season that you can’t swing as hard, and that’s OK. You’re probably not playing for a $1 million prize – take it easy, relax, and enjoy the social and exercise components of your sport.

You may also want to consider changing equipment to better suit your game. If you’re playing with clubs that you purchased 10 years ago when your swing speed was faster, it might be time to upgrade. Using those old clubs and swinging extra hard is a set up for back problems.

4. Stay fit and active between golf outings

Core strength is huge for spine health. The muscles around the abdomen and back help support the spine, and having a strong core reduces the risk of injury as you swing and bend. Pilates can be particularly effective for core strengthening at any age.

And moderation is key – consider participating in other activities along with golf to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Make time for other aerobic workouts, such as walking, running, and swimming.

5. See the doctor if your back hurts

This seems like common sense, but patients often hesitate to report back pain because they’re worried we’ll say, “No more golf.” But our spine surgeons and sports medicine team want patients to enjoy the sports they love and remain active, not sedentary.

As with most health conditions, early intervention can help patients manage back pain faster and reduce the risk of serious injury. Most golf-related back pain can be treated with medication, physical therapy, or other nonsurgical methods. However, severe injuries might require back surgery. Our spine and sports medicine doctors, nurses, and physical therapists take a preventative approach that helps patients recover and potentially avoid future back pain issues.

Whether you’ve played for years or this is your first season, remember to warm up, maintain good form, and listen to your body so you can enjoy every round of golf without an aching back.

To visit a doctor about back pain or prevention, call 214-645-8300 or request an appointment online.