A majority of Americans (an estimated 80 percent) will experience debilitating back pain at some point in their lives. For many of those people, their episodes of back pain are repetitive or even constant. Causes of back pain range from genetics to traumatic injuries and lifestyle factors, but for some people, the cause of their back pain is unknown.
In the past, treating chronic back pain often involved use of custom shoe orthotics and back belts, but new research suggests these techniques are ineffective at relieving back pain. In a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed studies on back pain prevention, looking at prevention techniques such as shoe orthotics, back belts, lifestyle changes, education and exercise programs.
While orthotics and back belts were found to be almost completely ineffective at preventing back pain, exercise programs were found to be especially beneficial in back pain prevention. When combined with education, exercise reduced one’s risk of repetitive back pain by 45 percent.
Preventing back pain with exercise
What kind of exercise is best when it comes to back pain prevention? Researchers found that any kind of exercise can be beneficial, particularly low-impact exercise. If you suffer from back pain, here are some tips to help reduce your pain and prevent future episodes of back pain.
Do cardio exercise. As researchers found, exercise is especially beneficial in preventing back pain. Try a low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, bike riding or rowing to increase strength and endurance in your back.
Strength train. Resistance training, such as weight lifting and body weight exercises, help to build core strength, which in turn provides support for your spine.
Improve flexibility. Exercises such as yoga and stretching will improve flexibility and help align your hips, legs and pelvis to prevent back pain.
Lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is a major factor in preventing back pain. Excess weight puts strain on your body, particularly your lower back. Losing weight will alleviate that stress, reducing current pain and preventing future episodes of back pain.
Watch your posture. Whether you are standing or sitting, maintain a strong, tall posture. Keep your shoulders back and down, your muscles relaxed and your hips and pelvis in a neutral position. When sitting, keep both feet flat on the ground with your knees at hip level. Sitting on an exercise ball can relieve strain on your lower back while strengthening your core. If you’re standing for long periods of time, place one foot on a low footstool to reduce the load on your lower back, alternating feet every few minutes.
Sleep smart. Even sleeping can be bad for your back. Lie flat on your back or on your side with a pillow between your knees to support your hips and keep your spine in alignment.
Lift with caution. Avoid lifting heavy objects by yourself. If you must pick up a heavy load, be sure to bend at your knees and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight.
If you suffer from persistent back pain, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to rule out any injuries or damage to your back that may require treatment. Your doctor can also suggest exercises to help prevent future back pain.