American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Low-back pain is a leading cause of job-related disability and missed work in the United States. The pain is so unbearable that Americans spend more than $50 billion per year in an effort to make it go away. If you are experiencing work-related back pain, here are some back-protecting tips that may bring you relief: 

1.Lift wisely. Take your time, get help when needed, use lifting devices, and alternate heavy lifting with less physically demanding tasks. Follow the rules of good posture while lifting: 

  • Place feet at least shoulder-width apart.
  • Stand as close as possible to the object being lifted.
  • Hold the object as close to your body as you can.
  • Avoid twisting or bending forward when lifting and carrying.
  • Bend at the knees instead of the waist. 
  • Tighten your stomach muscles when lifting and lowering.

2.Avoid prolonged sitting and standing. Walk and stretch hourly if possible. 

  • For sitters: Place a rolled towel, small pillow or a specially designed seat support behind your lower back. 
  • For standers: Distribute weight evenly on both feet. 

3.Sit with good form. Align ears with the shoulders and keep chin parallel to the floor. Avoid leaning to one side and bend at the hips instead of rounding shoulders when leaning forward. Choose a supportive swivel chair with the following features:

  • Adjustable seat and arm rests
  • An adjustable back rest with a spring that moves with you
  • A seat that tilts forward

4.Modify your workspace to fit your needs.

  • Place your computer and other frequently used objects close to you.
  • Avoid neck pain by using a headset or special phone adapter for phone calls. 

5.Make your health a priority. This is an important, commonly overlooked way to reduce your risk for back pain. 

  • Lose a modest amount of weight. Even a small loss of 5–10% of your current body weight decreases stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints in the back. 
  • Quit smoking. It’s true, kicking the habit for good will help your back feel better. 
  • Exercise regularly. This is more effective than bed rest in helping to relieve and prevent chronic low-back pain. A quality exercise program includes aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching. 

6.Visit your health care provider if the above recommendations have not provided relief or you have concerns about your condition. Further testing and intervention may be necessary. 

Additional Resources

American Council on Exercise 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 

Medline Plus 

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons 

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