Back Pain – Preventing and Relieving Back Pain – includes a free patient information PDF!

Download the free patient handout PDF near the end of this article!

What To Do When Back Pain Starts

  • back floor chairLie down with your back on flat surface. Place a pillow under your knees and head in either of the two positions shown to the left.
  • These positions take pressure and weight off your back.
  • Even if it hurts, walk around very slowly for a few minutes every hour.
  • You may need a few days of this sort of rest before your back start feeling better.

Methods For Relieving Back Pain

What can I do for ongoing back pain?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more pressure on your back.
  • Stay active with gentle exercise such as walking or swimming.

What can I do for temporary relief?

  • Use heating pads or ice packs for 20-30 minutes at a time on the area that hurts.
  • If you are able, get massages, acupuncture or energy treatments. If you can’t afford those then try relaxing in a hot tub or bath.

When To Call Your Doctor or Health Care Provider

  • Your pain goes down your leg.
  • Your leg, foot, groin, or rectal area feels numb.
  • You have fever, nausea, vomiting, weakness or sweating.
  • Your pain is so bad you can't move around.
  • Your pain does not decrease after 2-3 weeks.
  • Your pain was caused by an injury.
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowels.

Preventing Back Strain

standing boxLifting: Bend your knees and hips, squat, and lift with your legs muscles. Do not lift by bending your back.
Moving heavy objects: Push rather than pull heavy objects.
Sitting: Sit erect not slouched. Do not sit for long periods. Get up and stretch.
Walking: Don’t hold yourself stiffly when you walk; your arms should swing. Don’t hang your head down unless you need to look down at something.
Shoes: Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels (1 inch or lower) with arch support.
Standing for long periods of time: Rest 1 foot on a low stool to relieve pressure on your lower back. Every 5 to 10 minutes switch the foot you're resting on the stool (as shown here).

It is important to keep your back muscles flexible. Your back muscles can help you maintain good posture and keep your body in proper alignment. Do only these exercise that you can do without causing pain. Don’t do any exercises that cause pain.

Gently Stretch Back Muscles:

  1. laying knee raisedLie on your back with your knees bent and slowly raise your left knee toward your chest, to the point where you first feel a very light stretch (no further than a light stretch).
  2. Very gently press your lower back toward the floor.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  4. Relax and repeat the exercise with your right knee.
  5. Do 10 of these exercises for each leg.

Low Back Release:

  1. chair lean forwardSit in chair with feet on the floor hip width apart.
  2. Place your palms on your legs as you bend forward, until your belly rests on your upper thighs.
  3. If your belly cannot rest on your thighs, instead rest your hands and elbows on your legs for support. If your belly can rest on your thighs let the top of your head hang towards the floor and let your arms hang loosely at your sides.

Pelvic Tilt for Low Back Mobility:

  1. floorLie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent; the bottoms of your feet planted on the floor hip width apart.
  2. Gently press your low back to the floor by letting your belly and ribs sink and slightly tilting your pelvis, so your tailbone comes slightly away from the floor
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then release.
  4. Repeat several times.
You can print copies of this PDF handout for your patients, to reinforce what you have told them.
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Back Strengthening Exercise:

  1. stomachLay with your belly on the floor, your arms at your sides, and your legs stretched out behind you.
  2. Slowly lift your head and let your upper chest come away from the floor, pushing your belly forward and your shoulders back, only the amount that is comfortable.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then release. Repeat several times. If you want to increase the difficulty you can lift your legs at the same time as your chest, pressing your belly and pelvis against the floor.

Hip Flexor Stretch:

  1. kneel stretchStep into a lunge with your front leg bent, making sure that your front knee is directly over your ankle (you should be able to see your toes).
  2. Place your hands on either side of your front foot. Keep your back leg bent with your knee on the floor. As you gently stretch forward towards your bent front knee, you will feel a gentle stretch.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat several times and then switch legs.
Used with permission from the Community Health Association of Mountain/Plains States (CHAMPS)