Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

How to Wreck Your Back

You may be setting yourself up for back pain. Find out how to stop it before it starts.

Back Wreckers #4 and #5: Commuting and Computing continued...

Prevent it: You're going to sit. So try these tactics to lessen its impact on your back:

  • Get up and move at least once every 20 minutes, unless you're driving. Set your screen saver to remind you; make a habit of going for a drink of water; when you answer the phone, stand up to stretch and change positions.
  • Keep your spine properly aligned by holding reading material at eye level (when sitting or standing) rather than bending over. Don't lean over a desk or table to work. Whenever possible, your spine should be straight.
  • Choose a chair that supports your back. Adjust the chair so that your feet stay flat on the floor. If the chair doesn't support your lower back's curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back. Remove anything from your back pockets, especially a wallet, if you'll be seated for long periods of time because this puts your spine out of alignment.

Gokhale suggests doing the following exercises to help lengthen your spine:

  • Get on your hands and knees. Reach your left arm straight ahead and straighten your right leg behind you. Use your stomach muscles to stabilize. Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Switch arm and leg. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
  • Sit tall, lengthen your spine, and let your shoulders relax. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together, keeping your arms hanging at your sides. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 10-20 times.

If All Else Fails

The experts interviewed for this story all told WebMD that most back pain should abate with in 48 hours with a nonprescription pain reliever. But in some cases, your pain could require urgent care.

You need immediate attention if you suffer any loss of bladder or bowel control with your back pain, Hisey says. This is associated with a disc that's pressing on nerves and the faster you relieve the pressure, the faster the function returns.

"Most back pain won't radiate below the waist," Shamie says. "If you feel pain in the thighs or knees, you likely have a disc herniation causing nerve compression." Seek medical attention to ensure there isn't more serious damage.

If your back pain keeps coming back, see a medical professional. You may have begun to rupture a disc or have another injury that could require treatment. "The older you are, the quicker you should get to a specialist," Shamie says.

1 | 2 | 3
Reviewed on February 19, 2010

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
See the myths vs. the facts.
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
pain in brain and nerves
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Woman holding lower back
Weight Loss Surgery
lumbar spine
back pain