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5. Strengthen Your Core

Most people with chronic back pain would benefit from stronger abdominal muscles.

“The torso is a combination of many muscle groups working together,” Frank B. Wyatt, EdD, professor of exercise physiology at Missouri Western State University, tells WebMD in an email. “If the abdominals are weak, other areas must pick up the slack. When we strengthen the abdominals, it often reduces the strain on the lower back.”

6. Improve Flexibility

Too much tension and tightness can cause back pain. "Our goal in increasing flexibility is to put an equal load throughout the body from the feet all the way up to the head,” Davis says. “One good exercise is to sit on the edge of the bed with one leg extended and the other one on the floor. Give your hamstrings a stretch by leaning forward while keeping your back in a neutral position.”

7. Ditch the Brace

It’s tempting to baby your back muscles, but Davis says braces should be used sparingly. “Braces are helpful for strenuous activities, like heavy lifting, but only keep them on for 15 minutes at a time,” he says. If you wear a brace all day, the muscles — which should be providing stability — weaken and you will have less core strength.

8. Apply Ice and Heat

Heating pads and cold packs can comfort tender trunks. Most doctors recommend using ice for the first 48 hours after an injury -- particularly if there is swelling — and then switching to heat.

But "it is difficult to say if ice or heat is more beneficial,” Flippin says. “I recommend that patients use whichever they find comforting as long as their skin is protected.”

9. Sleep the Right Way

The amount of rest you get is important, and so is the position you get it in. “Sleeping in a bad position or on a mattress without support can cause back pain,” Wilmarth says.

Some pointers:

  • Back sleepers should put pillows under their knees.
  • Side sleepers should place pillows between their knees to keep their spine in a neutral position.
  • Stomach sleeping causes the neck and head to twist and can put undue stress on the back.

10. Quit Smoking

Lighting up doesn’t just damage your lungs; it can also hurt your back.

A study recently published in the American Journal of Medicine found that current and former smokers are more likely to have back pain when compared with people who have never smoked. 

“Nicotine causes the small blood vessels to constrict and decreases the delivery of blood to the soft tissue,” Flippin says. “I tell all my patients that quitting smoking could help alleviate their back pain.”

11. Try Talk Therapy

Back pain is often seen with issues such as depression and anxiety, says Alex Moroz, MD, associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

“Your emotional state colors the perception of pain,” Moroz says. “Therapy can be a helpful part of rehabilitation.”

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