Back pain is often due to poor posture, weak abdominal or back muscles, or sudden muscle strain. You can improve your posture by wearing comfortable shoes, sitting and standing properly, and choosing an appropriate mattress for your bed. Regular exercises strengthen abdominal and back muscles; losing weight will relieve stress on the back; and lifting objects safely can help to prevent back strain. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for advice on posture, exercises, and diet.
Correct body posture
To break bad postural habits, you should be constantly aware of the way in which you stand, sit, move, and even sleep. The pictures on this page show how to carry out everyday activities comfortably, with minimal strain on your spine and back muscles.
Lifting a heavy object
When lifting, pushing, or pulling a heavy object, keep the object close to you so that you can use your full strength to move it. To lift an object, hold the bottom edge so that you support the full weight of the object and keep your body balanced as you lift to avoid straining your spine.
Squat close to the object with your weight evenly on both feet and the object between your legs. Grasp the base of the object.
Keep your back straight and lean forwards slightly. Stand up in a single, smooth movement, pushing yourself up with your leg muscles and keeping the object close to you.
Once you are upright, keep the weight close to your body. Keep your back straight and head up, so that your body is balanced over its centre of gravity.
You can help to prevent back pain by gently exercising the muscles in your back and abdomen. See a doctor or ask for a referral to a physiotherapist before starting a programme of exercise. You should not continue to do any exercise that causes you pain. The movements shown here should make your back muscles stronger and your spine more flexible. Repeat each one 10 times if you can, and try to exercise daily. Do the exercises on a comfortable but firm, flat surface, such as a mat laid on the floor.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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