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What you need to know about low back pain

8 out of 10 Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.

The good news is — it’s manageable. Understanding your symptoms and risk factors is a great way to keep your lower back strong — and to make sure it stays that way.

Back Pain
Causes of Low Back Pain

What are the most common causes of low back pain?

Poor posture

Whether sitting, walking, standing, or lifting, good posture reduces the overall stress to your lower back.


Emotional stress often leads to muscle tension, which can result in low back pain.

Back strains and sprains

These injuries are usually the result of small tears in the muscles and ligaments of your lower back.


This condition generally occurs in people over the age of 50, and can lead to disc deterioration, decreased disc space, and bone spurs.

Herniated disc

This occurs when a disc between two vertebrae starts slipping out of place, which can irritate the surrounding nerves and cause considerable pain.

What are the best ways to manage low back pain early on?


Get plenty of rest

No, this doesn’t mean you should lie in bed all day. It’s best to use a combination of rest and activity as designated by your doctor.

Apply a heat or ice pack

Apply a heat or ice pack

These can be used interchangeably based on what’s comfortable for you.

Sit up straight

Sit up straight

We know, we know. You’ve heard this before. But we promise — it really works.

Move your body

Move your body

Remember, everything in moderation. Gentle and simple exercises and stretches are best.

Pain relievers

Pain relievers

Consider using over-the-counter pain relievers (but talk to your doctor first).

Heavy lifting

Heavy lifting can be a pain — literally.

This list of do’s and don’ts can help you learn how to lift the right way.


  • Plant your feet firmly — get a stable base.
  • Bend at your knees, not your waist.
  • Get a good grip — use both hands.
  • Keep the object close to your body.
  • Keep your back upright in its natural posture.
  • Lift steadily and smoothly without jerking.
  • Breathe. If you have to hold your breath to lift the object, it’s too heavy. Get help.


  • Lift from the floor.
  • Twist and lift.
  • Lift with one hand.
  • Lift loads across obstacles.
  • Lift while reaching or stretching.
  • Lift from an uncomfortable posture.
  • Hold your breath while lifting.

Is working from home causing you low back pain?

Although swapping your office chair for a sectional may sound pretty great, the truth is that working this way for a long period of time can increase your risk for low back pain.

Do your lower back a favor and practice these working-from-home tips:

Start your day out with a good stretch.

Before clocking in from your couch, make sure to prep your back with some morning stretches. Your lower back will thank you at the end of the day.

Prepare your chair.

Ideally, you’ll be sitting in a chair. If you’ve snagged one from your dining room table, use a cushion or rolled-up towel for extra support.

Make sure your screen is at the right height.

Got a dictionary or a couple old yearbooks lying around? Now you can finally
put them to good use. Raising your screen to eye-level will help you to avoid

Give your feet some support.

Having your feet flat on the floor creates a stable base. If your feet don’t reach
the floor, see if you can put them on a cushion or box.

Take regular breaks.

Step away from your makeshift workspace every 30 minutes or so. When you
give your brain and body a rest, you’ll be all the more productive when you
return to work.

Back Pain Appointment

Remember – it's important to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you've been in pain for more than three weeks.

From there, your doctor can diagnose the source of your pain and develop a plan for treatment. They may even refer you to a specialist, such as a physical therapist.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention ASAP:

  • Pain shooting down the leg
  • Fever
  • Digestive or urinary issues
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • A history of cancer, osteoporosis, or steroid use