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Low Back Pain (cont.)

Living With Low Back Pain

Picture of a man

One Man's Story:

"Some people get better fast, but others take a lot of time. That was my case. If you have back pain, do what you can for it, but don't be in a hurry. It usually gets better."—Jack

Read more about how Jack learned that he didn't need surgery.

Almost everyone has low back pain at some time. The good news is that most low back pain will go away in a few days or weeks with some basic self-care.

Some people are afraid that doing too much may make their pain worse. In the past, people stayed in bed, thinking this would help their backs. Now doctors think that, in most cases, getting back to your normal activities is good for your back, as long as you avoid things that make your pain worse.

Ease back into your daily activities

Avoid or change activities that cause pain

Pay attention to your body mechanics and posture

Body mechanics are the way you use your body. Posture is the way you sit or stand.

  • To prevent a return of low back pain, you will need to take extra care when you lift. When you must lift, bend your knees and flex from your hips. Don't let your spine slump.
  • Stand or sit tall without slumping or arching your back too much. Slouching and slumping increase stress on your back.

Stretch and strengthen your back

When you no longer have acute pain, you may be ready for gentle strengthening exercises for your stomach, back, and legs, and perhaps for some stretching exercises. Exercise may not only help decrease low back pain but also may help you recover faster, prevent reinjury to your back, and reduce the risk of disability from back pain.

Walking is the simplest and perhaps the best exercise for the low back. Your doctor or a physical therapist can recommend more specific exercises to help your back muscles get stronger. These may include a series of simple exercises called core stabilization. The muscles of your trunk, or core, support your spine. Strengthening these muscles can improve your posture, keep your body in better balance, and decrease your chance of injury.

Click here to view an Actionset.Fitness: Increasing Core Stability
Click here to view an Actionset.Low Back Pain: Exercises to Reduce Pain

Picture of a man and a dog

One Man's Story:

"I discovered that what you have to do is this: You do as much as you can."—Robert

Read more about how Robert controls his back pain by staying active.

Take care of stress

Stress and low back pain can create a vicious circle. You have back pain, and you begin to worry about it. This causes stress, and your back muscles begin to tense. Tense muscles make your back pain worse, and you worry more ... which makes your back worse ... and so on.

There are lots of ways to teach yourself to relax.

Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Practicing Yoga to Relax
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Relaxing Your Mind and Body
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Managing Your Time
Click here to view an Actionset.Stress Management: Doing Meditation

Photo of a woman holding her head in her hands

One Woman's Story:

"I had too much to do and too little time. That means stress. And when I start stressing, my back starts aching. Before I knew it, my back was screaming at me."—Cathy

Read more about how Cathy made time to deal with her stress.

Manage your weight

Extra body weight, especially around the waist, may put strain on your back.

If you want to get to a healthy weight and stay there, lifestyle changes will work better than dieting.

Here are the three steps to reaching a healthy weight:

  • Improve your eating habits. Do it slowly. You may be tempted to do a diet overhaul and change everything about the way you eat. But you will be more successful at staying with the changes you make if you pick just one eating habit at a time to work on.
    Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Starting a Plan for Change
  • Get moving. Try to make physical activity a regular part of your day, just like brushing your teeth. Start small, and build up over time. Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
  • Change your thinking. Our thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel and what we do. If you can stop your brain from telling you discouraging things and have it start encouraging you instead, you may be surprised at how much healthier you'll be—in mind and body.
    Click here to view an Actionset.Weight Management: Using Positive Thinking

Quit smoking

People who smoke take longer to heal—from any injury, not just back pain. If you stop smoking, you may feel better sooner.

People who smoke are also much more likely to have back pain than people who don't smoke. This is because the nicotine and other toxins from smoking can keep spinal discs from getting all the nutrients they need from the blood, making disc injury more likely. These discs cushion the bones in your spine. An injured disc can cause low back pain.

Interactive Tool: Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?Click here to see an interactive tool.
Click here to view an Actionset.Quitting Smoking: Getting Support
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