Top tips for preventing and relieving back pain

Top tips for preventing and relieving back pain

Are you suffering from back pain or know someone who is? Back pain can be excruciating and is also very common. We are here to help!

If you have ever had to call in sick due to back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of the main causes of absence and low productivity at work. It affects 8 out of 10 people, at some point in their lives.

The most common type of back pain occurs in the lumbar (the lower part of the back). Pain may also be felt in the thoracic muscles (the middle of the back), in the trapezoids (upper part the back) or the spine.

Normal or acute back pain usually lasts up to 12 weeks. If it goes on for more than three months, this is considered chronic pain. Both types can vary in intensity.

Causes of back pain

The back is a complete structure, its center is the thoracic spine, made up of 33 bones called vertebrae. The nerves in the spinal cord pass through a tunnel in the center of these bones.

The spongy disks between the vertebrae absorb any contact between them, while the ligaments and tendons hold them together.

Your back changes naturally as you age. The deterioration of spinal disks may give way to joint problems, such as arthritis.

However, these changes can also be seen in many people who suffer from back pain. Therefore, it is difficult to know if the changes are in fact the cause of the pain.

In reality, it is very difficult for doctors to identify the exact cause of the pain. It may originate in an injury or trauma, such as a fall, or it may be a result of arthritis or arthrosis. Nevertheless, most of the time the pain develops due to bad habits such as bad posture when sitting at a desk or while sleeping.

The most likely causes are:

Previous injury from twisting or lifting
Damage to the soft tissue caused by tension or trauma in the back muscles, ligaments or tendons
Spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of nerves
Progressive development due to arthritis or arthrosis
Repetitive bad posture, even when sleeping
Normal wear and tear

Risk factors

Here are some risk factors that could put you at higher risk of developing back pain:
Age: back pain becomes more common with age, starting at the age of 30 or 40
Sedentary lifestyle: lack of physical exercise weakens the muscles in the back and the abdomen
Obesity: being overweight puts additional pressure on the back
Smoking: reduces blood flow to the spinal column which can prevent your body from sending enough nutrients to the back
Psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Preventing back pain

Avoiding risk factors should be the first step for preventing back pain. Below, are some other measures you can take to prevent it:

Tips for preventing back pain

Maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise and diet

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are essential to avoiding back pain.

If you don’t exercise, you are more likely to suffer from back pain, even through simple, everyday movements.

Exercise can also help you control your weight and avoid putting extra pressure on your back. You can calculate your body mass index as a point of reference to find a healthy weight for your height and age.

Focus on exercises such as walking or swimming that strengthen the muscles in your back without straining them. Yoga or pilates are other good options as they help to improve strength and flexibility. You should always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Eating well doesn’t just help you maintain a healthy weight, it can also help with digestion. Not many people know that intestinal problems can cause back pain, since the intestine and the spinal cord are linked.

Forget fast food, or food that is overly spicy or greasy. Opt for a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables.

2. Be mindful of your posture

If you really want to prevent back pain, you should continue to check your posture throughout the day:

In the office

Sit straight at your desk with some type of support at the lower part of the back, like a cushion of rolled blanket. Your knees and hips should be level and your feet should be flat against the floor (use a footrest if necessary).

Your forearms should be horizontal and your elbows should be bent to form a right angle with your keyboard. Your computer should be suitably positioned: 50 to 100 cm away and directly in front of you, so that you don’t have to raise or lower your head to see the screen.

As well as ensuring that you have an ergonomic working environment you should also try to take active pauses to do some light stretching throughout the day.

When using mobile device

Excessive use of mobile devices such as cellphones and laptops, has become increasingly linked to back pain, due to the fact that users have a habit of looking down at their screens, which puts a lot of extra strain on the neck and back.

The correct position for looking at your phone is at chest height. Keep your head up in the most natural position possible to avoid pain.

For example, using both hands, one for holding your cellphone and the other for typing or opening applications, will help you split the effort between both sides of your body and maintain proper posture.

When you have to make a long phone call, consider using a hands-free device to avoid spending an extended period of time in an uncomfortable position.

Standing up

Balance your weight on both feet and keep your legs straight. Try to stay upright with your back straight and head facing forward.


Talk to your doctor about the best sleeping position for you. In general, it is recommended that you sleep on your side, preferably the left, since this position promotes lymphatic drainage from the brain and allows the back to be more aligned. Sometimes, a doctor may suggest keeping your knees slightly raised towards your chest.

Sleeping face-down is not good for your back. If you can’t sleep in any other position, put a pillow under your hips to help relieve tension in your back.

Your mattress plays a key role in preventing back pain. It should be firm enough to support your body, keeping your spine straight.

If your mattress is too soft, you can adjust it by placing a firm board, ideally 2 cm wide, between your bed frame and your mattress. Support your head with a pillow, making sure your neck is not too raised.

Lifting heavy objects

Warming up your back with some light stretching before starting simple tasks during the day can help you prevent injuries. Be careful when lifting objects and do not bend from the waist to lift heavy objects. Bend your knees and lower yourself down slowly, being sure to engage your core and keep the object close to your body as you lift.

Push instead of pull when moving heavy objects, as pushing doesn’t put as much strain on your back.


You should be equally aware of your posture when driving as you are when sitting at your desk. Your lower back should be properly supported and your wing mirrors should be positioned so that you don’t have to turn your body to see them.

When driving for long distances, try to take regular breaks to stretch your legs.

3. Wear clothing that is comfortable for your back

If you really want to prevent back pain, you may have to make some sacrifices when it comes to your personal style.

Wearing high heels higher than an inch can affect your center of gravity and put pressure on your lower back. Choose a lower heel or flat shoes with cushioned soles to reduce lower back strain.

Very tight clothing can also contribute to back pain, preventing you from bending properly and thus making it more difficult to sit down or walk.

Ideally, your purse or handbag should have an adjustable strap that you can pass over your head and wear across your body like a messenger bag.

Keeping the strap on your opposite shoulder from your bag will help distribute the weight more equally and keep your back pain-free. In any case, avoid carrying around a very heavy bag.

When you have to carry a bag without a strap, like a shopping bag, change hands regularly to avoid putting excess strain on one side of your body.

4. Reduce stress

Stress increases tension in your muscles and this type of constant tension can cause back pain. Activities that can help lower stress levels include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and tai chi.

6. Stop smoking

Various studies have shown that smoking can aggravate existing back pain, as it puts strain on blood vessels and thus reduces the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the spinal cord, making it more susceptible to injuries.

How to relieve back pain

In most cases, back pain seems to come and go for no apparent reason. Rest can help. However, staying in bed for 1 or 2 days can actually make things worse. Treatment for back pain depends on what type of pain you have and its cause.

If you are suffering from chronic back pain, you do have options. Nowadays there is a huge range of both conventional and alternative treatments available to help you:

1. Over-the-counter painkillers:

the most common being acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen. However, excessive use of NSAIDs can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

They can also lead to stomach ulcers, bleeding and kidney problems, so it may not be the best option for those suffering from chronic pain

2. Topical pain relief:

includes creams, lotions or sprays that are applied to the skin to relieve muscle pain or arthritis. Most are sold over the counter, without a prescription. Usually, they offer temporary relief, but are not as effective when used alone to control pain in the long term.


3. Prescription medication:

usually corticoids, opioids, or even antidepressants. Corticoids can offer relief, but are associated with a range of side effects such as weight gain, stomach issues, headaches, difficulty sleeping, weakened immune system and may reduce bone density.

Similarly, opioids have been shown to be effective in relieving pain, but have also come under fire for their many side effects, such as constipation, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, as well as their potential to produce dependence when used for a prolonged period of time.

4. Chiropractic:

treatment centered around the relationship between the structure of the body, mainly the spinal column, and its function. Uses a type of practical therapy called manipulation.

In certain cases, chiropractic can be just as effective as conventional treatments for combating chronic back pain.

5. Acupuncture:

originated in China over 2,500 years ago and involves inserting fine needles in certain parts of the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the body has over 2,000 of these acupuncture points. This technique aims to stimulate certain parts of the body to correct any imbalance and improve the flow of energy, helping to alleviate pain and improve overall health. Research suggests that in certain cases, acupuncture can be an effective way to treat chronic back pain.

6. Cannabis:

this plant is part of the Cannabaceae family. Despite its controversial reputation as a recreational drug, its many therapeutic benefits have been scientifically proven and The World Health Organization (WHO) has even suggested that regulations surrounding the plant be changed. Currently, one of the main uses of medicinal Cannabis is for pain relief. Its effectiveness in treating back pain specifically has been researched by a number of specialists all over the world, including Israel. Preliminary results show the potential for Cannabis to relieve back pain in patients with fibromyalgia, in comparison with conventional pain medication.


Listen to your body

If you have experienced intense back pain, do not ignore it. This could be a sign of a serious condition. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you should to identify and treat the cause. Equally, if you are experiencing back pain following an injury, you should seek urgent medical attention. Do you know someone suffering from back pain? Share this article and help your loved ones free themselves from back pain.