Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Symptoms serious signs Evaluation Treatment specialist Home Care back exercises pain in adults pain in children warning signs Prevention exercises proper lifting proper posture Underlying Cause Anatomy

Acute Back Pain Prevention

Prevention of back pain includes:

Acute Back Pain Exercises

Back stretching exercises that can help prevent back pain include:

  • Lower neck and upper back stretch:
    • While standing, place your hands together in front of you.
    • Bend your neck and back forward while you keep your knees straight.
    • Reach toward the floor.
  • Seated low-back stretch:
    • Sit on a chair with both feet planted squarely on the floor.
    • Bend over by placing your head between your knees.
    • Touch your fingertips on the floor between your feet.

Perform back and abdominal strengthening exercises after the back pain has resolved. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about exercises that are right for you.

Performing these exercises regularly can help reduce chronic back pain:
  • Abdominal crunch:
    • Lie flat on your back with your knees drawn up to 90 degrees and your feet planted on the floor.
    • Place your hands behind your head and begin by slowly raising your shoulders 1" off the floor.
    • Then return to the resting position.
    • Focus on flexing the abdominal muscles when you raise your head and shoulders.
    • Do not use your arms to lift your head and bend your neck.
    • You must use your stomach (abdominal) muscles to perform the exercise.
  • Shoulder shrugs: rotate shoulders upward and backward.
  • Lower neck and upper back stretch:
    • Stand up; place your hands together in front of you.
    • Bend your neck and upper back forward.
    • Reach your hands toward the floor.
  • Seated low-back stretch:
    • Sit on a chair with both feet planted squarely on the floor.
    • Bend down and place your head between your knees.
    • Touch your fingertips on the floor between your feet.

Acute Back Pain Proper Lifting

Tips for lifting safely in someone with back pain include:

  • Think before you act. Look at the label and find out how much the object weighs.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Plan the move in advance.
  • Stand closely to the object you wish to lift.
  • Keep your body weight over your feet while you lift.
  • Bend your knees and keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Lift with your legs while you keep your back straight.
  • Keep objects close to your body while lifting.
  • Lift the load smoothly, without jerking, tugging, or twisting.
  • Avoid twisting your back: keep your back straight while lifting.
  • Maintain balance: keep your feet one shoulder-width apart as you walk while carrying a heavy object.
  • Change direction by moving your feet. Do not change direction by twisting your back.
  • Observe the same technique when putting items down.
  • Use a back support: acts as a reminder to lift correctly, but does not decrease the risk for back injury.

Acute Back Pain Proper Posture

Maintaining good posture helps prevent and treat back pain.

A chair with low back support helps protect your back while sitting. Try to keep your back straight, rather than slouching. Do not sit at the edge of your chair while working. Sit close to your work so that you do not have to lean over your desk. Sit in a chair that allows you to place both feet on the floor.

While standing, rest one foot on a small step: switch feet every 10-20 minutes. Do not stand with your knees locked or your stomach relaxed. The abdominal muscles support the lower back and spine.

Your work surface should not force you to bend over at the waist. Raise the work surface, so that you do not have to slouch. Do not wear high-heels, hard-heels, or platform shoes.

Reaching and twisting
Arrange the work place, so that you do not have to reach or twist the body. Move your entire body toward an object, rather than reaching or twisting with your arms extended.

Kneel down on one knee when you pick up small objects. Place one hand on the floor and support your upper body with one arm. Bend your knees and hips when you lift objects; do not bend your back.

Remember: lifting a 10 pound object while your knees are straight, and your back is bent, places 120 pounds of force on your lower back. Use the powerful muscles in your legs to lift.

Continue to Acute Back Pain Underlying Cause

Last Updated: Nov 29, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Acute Back Pain References
  1. Andersson GB: Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain. Lancet 1999 Aug 14; 354(9178): 581-5. [10470716]
  2. Coste J, Delecoeuillerie G, et al: Clinical course and prognostic factors in acute low back pain: an inception cohort study in primary care practice. BMJ 1994 Feb 26; 308(6928): 577-80. [8148683]
  3. Hayden J, Tulder M, Malmivaara A, Koes B. Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD000335. [16034851]
  4. King HA. Back pain in children. Orthop Clin North Am. 1999 Jul;30(3):467-74, ix. [10393768]
  5. Marriott A, Newman NM, et al: Improving the evaluation of benign low back pain. Spine 1999 May 15; 24(10): 952-60. [10332784]
  6. van Tulder MW, Koes BW, Bouter LM: Conservative treatment of acute and chronic nonspecific low back pain. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of the most common interventions. Spine 1997 Sep 15; 22(18): 2128-56. [9322325]
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