4 ways to prevent low back pain

Low back pain is one of the most common ailments in the United States. About 80 percent of people have at least one episode of low back pain during their lifetime. Factors that increase the risk of developing low back pain include smoking, obesity, older age, sedentary work, a stressful job, job dissatisfaction and psychological factors such as anxiety or depression. Physically strenuous work also contributes to low back pain.

Most people with back pain have nonspecific back pain. Such people usually improve in a few weeks with conservative care. Less than one percent of people have serious causes, such as cancer or infection and less than 10 percent have less serious causes like fracture, pinched nerve, or narrowing of the spinal cord.

Therefore, it’s important to see your primary care physician first, before seeking specialist care. Most of the time, a focused history and physical examination are enough to make a diagnosis of back pain.

It is imperative to prevent back pain from developing in the first place. People can do a number of things to prevent back pain.

1. Exercise and stay active

The most important thing you can do is exercise routinely and stay active. Regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and can be combined with specific exercises to strengthen the muscles of the hips and back. The abdominal muscles are particularly important in supporting the lower back and preventing back pain. Exercises can be as simple as walking every day. And other activities like Pilates, Yoga and aerobic exercises are also very helpful in preventing back pain.

2. Avoid high-impact activities

It is important to avoid activities that involve repetitive bending or twisting and high-impact activities that increase stress in the spine.

3. Bend and lift correctly

Bending and lifting correctly is also important. People with low back pain should learn the right way to bend and lift. For example, lift with the knees bent and the abdominal muscles tightened. This way you avoid straining the weaker muscles in the lower back.

4. Take a break

People who sit or stand for long periods should change positions often and use a chair with appropriate support for the back. Readjust your office chair several times throughout the day to avoid sitting in the same position. Taking brief but frequent breaks to walk around will also prevent pain due to prolonged sitting or standing. People who stand in place for long periods can try placing a block of wood on the floor, stepping up and down every few minutes.

agrawalDr. Meetu Agrawal is a primary care physician with Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Largo Primary Care. To reach her practice, call 301-925-7610.
Originally published Dec. 19, 2016. Last updated Dec. 16, 2019.

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