Back Pain

Updated 28 November 2014

How to get on top of back pain

According to experts there's a lot we can do to avoid back pain. It all starts with healthy habits.


Even though back pain affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, there's a lot you can do to avoid the problem, an expert says.

It begins with healthy habits, including not smoking along with maintaining proper weight through good nutrition and exercise. Good posture, balance, strength and flexibility help increase core strength to support the back.

"All these elements can preserve a good back, keep our bones and bodies strong and help the body heal should injury occur," Kathy Dieringer, a National Athletic Trainers' Association board member, said in a news release from the organisation.

Read: Pain in the back is costing the country

How to survive back pain

To maintain good posture, keep your shoulders back when sitting, avoid slouching and don't sit for more than 30 minutes without moving around.

It's also important to support your back when sitting or sleeping. Sit with your knees slightly bent and higher than your hips. When in bed, try to maintain your lumbar curves and use pillows if necessary, Dieringer said.

Read: What are the symptoms of back pain?

Core muscles make up the "powerhouse" in the centre of your body, according to the Federal Occupational Health website of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Core muscles include abdominal muscles, back muscles and muscles in the pelvic region.

Exercise helps a lot

Dieringer advised strengthening your core using exercises such as crunches, modified crunches with weights or medicine balls, planks, bridges and back extensions. When exercising, be sure to work on both lower and upper back muscles. It's also important to do exercises that help maintain back flexibility.

If you're inactive, get moving. Walking is a great way to maintain good back health, according to Dieringer.

Read: What are the symptoms of back pain?

Remember to lift with your legs, bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Don't twist when carrying objects. Turn your entire body and keep your hips and shoulders facing the same direction. If you're doing work – such as gardening – that requires lots of bending or stooping, take frequent breaks and stretch your back when you stand up.

Don't ignore the pain

If you do experience back pain, stop your activity, rest and consult your doctor. Ignoring back pain can lead to complications, Dieringer warned.

"By following a healthy regimen to maintain good posture, proper back and body mechanics, your movements should be easy, pain-free and with great range of motion," she said.

Read more:

Exercises to alleviate back pain
Comfrey relieves back pain
Fix that back pain

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Susan qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1990, and completed her master’s degree in Physiotherapy in 2013 at the University of Pretoria. She has a special interest in human biomechanics, as well as the interaction between domestic and work-related ergonomics.

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