Low Back Pain | Prevention

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What's the best way to sit?

Sit in chairs with straight backs or low-back support. Keep your knees a little higher than your hips. Adjust the seat or use a low stool to prop up your feet. Turn by moving your whole body rather than by twisting at your waist.

When driving, sit straight and move the seat forward. This helps you not lean forward to reach the controls. You may want to put a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back if you must drive or sit for a long time.

What's the best position for standing?

If you must stand for long periods, rest 1 foot on a low stool to relieve pressure on your lower back. Every 5 to 15 minutes, switch the foot you're resting on the stool. Maintain good posture: Keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line, with your head up and your stomach pulled in.

What's the best position for sleeping?

The best way to sleep is on your side with your knees bent. You may put a pillow under your head to support your neck. You may also put a pillow between your knees.

If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under your lower back. Don't sleep on your stomach unless you put a pillow under your hips.

Use a firm mattress. If your mattress is too soft, use a board of 1/2-inch plywood under the mattress to add support.

Tips for preventing back strain

  • Don't lift by bending over. Lift an object by bending your knees and squatting to pick up the object. Keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
  • Push rather than pull when you must move heavy objects.
  • If you must sit at your desk or at the wheel of a car or truck for long hours, break up the time with stops to stretch.
  • Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels (1 inch or lower).
  • Exercise regularly. An inactive lifestyle contributes to low back pain.

What exercises can I do to strengthen my back?

Some specific exercises can help your back. To gently stretch your back muscles, lie on your back with your knees bent and slowly raise your left knee to your chest. Press your lower back against the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat the exercise with your right knee. Do 10 of these exercises for each leg, switching legs.

While some exercises are specific for your back, it's also important to stay active in general. Swimming and walking are good exercises to improve your overall fitness.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 01/96

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