How to Prevent Low Back Pain

Four out of five adults will experience severe low back pain sometime during their life. Low back pain is the number two reason, next to having a cold, people give when missing work.

Work-related back injuries are the nation’s number one occupational hazard, but back pain can also occur from activities at home and play, too.

Back pain can occur from a single violent force, stressful act or stressful position that causes immediate pain. However, most back problems are due to repeated stress through improper posture, lifting or body mechanics during daily activities.

People are at risk for back pain if they don’t exercise regularly, are overweight, smoke and have jobs that require frequent bending and lifting.

Caregivers for ill or injured family members are at greater risk for back pain – especially when pulling on a reclining person on a bed into a sitting position, moving a person from the bed to a chair, or leaning over the person for a long period of time.

There are back-sparing guidelines to help avoid back injuries.

• Plan ahead, and don’t be in a hurry.

• Spread feet shoulder width apart to provide a good base of support. Bend the knees and tighten the stomach muscles. Position the object close before lifting. Lift with leg muscles, not with the back. Avoid twisting – instead pivot the feet.

• Keep items close to the body, do not stand far away and extend the arms when lifting or carrying.

• Maintain the normal curve of the spine; don’t bend at the waist. Ask for help when needed, don’t try to lift something that is too heavy or cumbersome to safely handle.

• Use the proper mechanics when lifting and moving. Warm up and stretch before physical activity and sports. Exercise regularly to maintain appropriate conditioning and keep the back muscles flexible. Maintain correct sitting and standing posture, don’t slouch.

– Provided by Kenner Army Health Clinic Public Affairs Office

Sources: U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health Web site, and