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7 Mistakes People Make With Back Pain

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Diana Rodriguez on July 20, 2021
  • Business Woman with Back Pain
    Simple Mistakes That Interfere With Back Pain Relief
    Back pain differs from person to person. It might be something you struggle with after a very active weekend. Or, it might be something you endure constantly. But, the back pain people experience has similarities, too. Back pain symptoms are more likely as you age. That's especially true if you have other risk factors that aren't under control. Usually, lifestyle changes and back pain medications can ease your symptoms. However, making some simple mistakes can interfere with your pain relief when you have a bad back. Here's what you should know about common mistakes.
  • Man lifting heavy box
    1. Not lifting the right way.
    You may have a short bout of back pain if you tried to lift something heavy but didn't lift properly. Here's how to lift something large or heavy: Don't use your back muscles to do the lifting. Don't bend at the waist. Keep your feet wide apart. Bend at your knees and use your core and leg muscles to lift the object. Also, don't twist as you straighten up. Another tip: Carry a heavy item close to your body. Holding it out, away from your body, puts extra strain on your back.
  • Man with back pain
    2. Resting your back too much.
    A serious back injury does require some rest. However, too much can make back pain worse. At first, your doctor might suggest bed rest. Stick to just 1 to 2 days and a few hours at a time. Don't sit for long stretches, either. Get up and move around every 10 to 15 minutes. Regular exercise is important for managing back pain. Do low-impact aerobic exercise, like walking or swimming. Also, do strengthening exercises to keep your bones and muscles strong. And remember to warm up before you exercise.
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  • Home exercise
    3. Skipping core exercises.
    Your core muscles are key to managing back pain. These include your abdominal muscles, your back muscles, and the muscles around your pelvis. There are all kinds of ways to exercise these muscles—but skip sit-ups. They can worsen back pain. Instead, try different types of planks. A plank works all of your core muscles. Setting up a plank: Place your elbows and balls of your feet on the floor and lift your body; then hold it in that position. You can also do bridges. Lie on the floor on your back, with your knees bent. Use your abdominal, buttock and lower back muscles to lift your buttocks off the floor.
  • spine specialist refers to model of spine while discussing with elderly patient
    4. Thinking the pain will go away on its own.
    Sometimes back pain from a single injury does get better without a doctor's care. Usually that happens within a few weeks. So, when should you see a doctor for back pain? Make an appointment if your pain lasts longer than that. You could have a spine disease that gets worse without treatment. Your doctor can recommend the right treatment plan to ease your symptoms. The doctor might suggest over-the-counter or prescription medications to manage the pain. Your doctor can also suggest lifestyle changes and exercises that should help ease your back pain.
  • woman-measuring-body-fat
    5. Not watching your weight.
    A healthy weight helps keep back pain in check. If you struggle with back pain and you're overweight, it's a mistake not to deal with it. Being overweight puts more strain on your spine and your muscles. Exercise regularly to lose weight. Make it a goal to exercise at least five days a week for at least 30 minutes each time. Also, eat a nutritious diet that's low in fat and calories. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Woman Sitting with Laptop
    6. Having poor posture.
    Standing or sitting with poor posture puts extra strain on your back. Take breaks if you're on your feet all day. Switch your weight from one foot to the other. Rest one foot on a stool sometimes to ease back strain. Stand with your shoulders and hips in a straight line. Take breaks when you sit, too. Add a pillow for support around your lower back. Or, roll up a towel and place it in the curve of your lower back. Sit up straight with your knees forming a right angle with your hips.
  • Man smoking
    7. Smoking.
    It's pretty well known that smoking is bad for your lungs and your heart. But, it's bad for your bones, too. It's especially bad for your spine. Smoking keeps your body from sending nutrients to the disks in your spine to keep it healthy. Tobacco smoke, plus the nicotine in cigarettes, causes your spine to age more quickly than normal. Smoking also makes you more sensitive to chronic pain. It slows healing from injuries and from surgical treatments. Numerous studies have found that back pain is more common in people who smoke than in those who don't.
7 Mistakes People Make With Back Pain | Symptoms & Pain Relief
  1. Low back pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
  2. Coping with chronic low back pain. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  3. How to cope when you have low back pain. Cleveland Clinic.
  4. Back pain. Mayo Clinic.
  5. Spine conditioning program. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
  6. Read this if you are a smoker who struggles with chronic pain. Cleveland Clinic.
  7. Bed rest for back pain? A little bit will do you. Harvard Medical School.
  8. I get low back pain during sit-ups. Am I doing something wrong or should I avoid them? American Council on Exercise.
  9. Physical activity for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  10. Healthy eating for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  11. To Ease Severe Back Pain, Quit Smoking. University of Rochester. [Based on: Behrend C, Prasarn M, Coyne E et al. Smoking Cessation Related to Improved Patient-Reported Pain Scores Following Spinal Care. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012;94(23):2161-2166.]
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 20
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