Stop Back Pain Before It Starts

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Prevent pain

You don’t have back pain…yet. Want to keep it that way? Try these techniques to prevent the pain long before it begins.

Sit pretty

You don’t need a fancy ergonomically designed office chair, but you should have one that provides good support so that your back is curved like an S, not a C, says Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, director of the spine service at the New York University Langone Medical Center.

Every half hour, get up and walk around for a few seconds to take some of the stress off your back.

Stand tall

Imagine a line coming down through your body from the ceiling, says physical therapist Renée Garrison.

Your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees should all stack up along that line, with your head stacked directly atop your neck, not jutting forward.

Wear soft soles

“If your shoe has little cushioning, every time your foot strikes concrete, you’ll jar the bones and muscles in your low back,” says Raj Rao, MD, vice chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. (That holds true for flats as well as heels.)

Look for a shoe with a cushioned sole, or buy an insert like Spenco For Her Women’s Q-Factor Cushioning Insole ($8 and up;amazon.com). When you’re at home, pad around in thick flip-flops or well-cushioned sneakers.

Don’t smoke

A 2010 review of 40 studies found that smokers have more low back pain than nonsmokers, possibly because smoking reduces blood flow to the spine, says Dr. Rao.

Learn how to lift

You know to hoist heavy objects using your legs, not your back. But what about a very light object?

Answer: Lean over it, slightly bend one knee, and extend the other leg behind you. Hold onto a chair or table for support.

Downsize your pillows

“Sleeping with two or three pillows under your neck can strain your muscles,” says Jessica Shellock, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute.