Help Prevent Back Pain

The Basics

Person in green hoodie stretching arms down behind backOne of the best ways to prevent back pain is to keep your back muscles strong. Follow these steps to help protect your back and prevent back pain:

  • Do back-strengthening and stretching exercises at least 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Stand and sit up straight.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. If you do lift something heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight. This way, your leg muscles will do most of the work.
  • Stay active and eat a balanced diet.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight to help lower the strain on your back.

Learn more about back pain and how to prevent it.

There are different kinds of back pain.

Back pain can feel like a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain. Back pain often gets better on its own. Find out when to call a doctor or nurse.

What is the difference between acute and chronic back pain?

Acute back pain is pain that lasts from a few days to a few weeks. It’s often caused by an accident, a fall, or lifting something too heavy. Acute back pain usually gets better without any treatment.

Back pain that lasts for more than 3 months is called chronic back pain. It is much less common than acute back pain. Most chronic back pain can be treated without surgery.

Find out about ways to treat back pain.

Who gets back pain?

Most people have back pain at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor or nurse. People are more likely to experience back pain as they get older.

Many people hurt their backs at work when they lift, push, or pull something that’s too heavy. People may also be at risk for back pain if they:

  • Have poor posture (don’t stand and sit up straight)
  • Aren’t physically active
  • Are overweight
  • Fall or have an accident
  • Have a health problem that causes back pain (like arthritis or cancer)
  • Smoke

Take Action!

Take care of your back to avoid back pain. Preventing back pain is easier than treating it.

Strengthen your back.

There are things you can do to make your back stronger and lower your risk of back pain.

  • Do back-strengthening and stretching exercises at least 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Try a yoga class. It can help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve your posture.
  • Stay active. Regular physical activity can help keep your back muscles strong. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity a week.

If you have a health condition, your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. Get tips on staying active with a disability.

Focus on good posture.

Good posture can help prevent back pain.

  • Try not to slouch when standing and sitting.
  • Sit up straight with your back against the back of your chair and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
  • Stand tall with your head up and shoulders back.

Find out how to have good posture while sitting at a computer.

Lift correctly.

Lift things with your legs, not your back. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees or at the hips. Get help if the load is too heavy for you to lift alone. Get more tips on safe lifting.

Watch your weight.

If you are overweight, watching your weight can help reduce the strain on your back.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis (“os-tee-oh-puh-ROH-sis”). If you have osteoporosis, your bones are weak and more likely to fracture (break). Spine fractures from osteoporosis are a leading cause of back pain.

Prevent back injuries at work.

Protecting your back on the job can help prevent injuries. Back injuries are the most common type of workplace injury.