10 lifestyle changes to help prevent lower back pain
Most people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, and it often gets better on its own. However, for some, it may become an annoying recurring condition.
Lower back pain is not a diagnosis, it’s a symptom. We can’t always determine the underlying medical cause of lower back pain, but we can try to identify as much as possible about the root issues.
If you come to our office with back pain, we’ll start by getting your medical history, and we’ll perform a physical examination. If appropriate, we may do some additional tests. Rather than just treating symptoms, we ask about your medical history and conduct an exam and tests to help us treat the underlying cause.
Lower back pain typically gets better in a few days or weeks. We call these cases acute. The causes of acute lower back pain are usually difficult to identify. The cause is often ‘strain’ or ‘sprain’, meaning muscle or ligament-related pain. We usually don’t need to find the root cause since it goes away in matter of days to weeks.
When lower back pain lasts longer than three months, we call it chronic. Causes can be difficult to identify.
The careful process of finding the cause can help assure that there isn’t a life-threatening condition. We can eliminate concerns about paralysis or becoming wheelchair bound. We can also establish that you can continue to work and exercise, even if you are in pain.
You may be asked to provide a complete patient history. We’ll conduct a physical examination and, when appropriate, imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan.
Preventing lower back pain
You can reduce the chances of experiencing lower back pain by making these positive lifestyle changes:
- Eat healthy so you keep your body weight within a healthy range.
- Get regular exercise to keep your back muscles fit and flexible.
- Avoid prolonged sitting.
- When you do sit, maintain good posture.
- Use proper techniques for lifting (lift with your legs rather than your back.)
- Avoid frequent bending and twisting. Especially avoid bending, twisting and lifting at the same time (like shoveling snow).
- Avoid situations where your spine is vibrated for long periods of time.
- Get enough sleep each day.
- Stop smoking.
- If you have depression and/or anxiety, visit with your health care clinician about ways to manage it.
Ask your health care professional for guidance about steps we’ve mentioned for preventing lower back pain.
When should you see a health care professional?
If you have back pain that doesn’t improve within about six weeks, see your health care clinician or a back specialist.
See a clinician immediately if:
- The pain becomes intolerable
- You develop leg numbness or weakness
- You have difficulty in controlling bladder or bowel
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About the Author
Mustafa Farooque, MD is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and fellowship trained in musculoskeletal spine and sports medicine at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.