Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to helping prevent back pain. Excess weight puts a strain on the back, so maintaining a healthy weight is important. Regular exercise, especially core work, keeps the abdominal and back muscles firm. Smoking ages the spine, so avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke.
Practicing good posture is another way to help prevent back pain. First, analyze your posture by standing with your heels against a wall. Your calves, buttocks, shoulders, and the back of your head should touch the wall. You should be able to slip your hand behind the small of your back. Now step forward and stand normally. If your posture changes, correct it right away. If you stand for long periods at work, wear flat shoes with good arch support and get a box or step about 6 inches high to rest one foot on from time to time.
Your sitting posture may be even more important. A good chair bottom supports your hips comfortably but doesn't touch the backs of your knees. Your chair back should be set at an angle of about 10 degrees and should cradle the small of your back comfortably. If necessary, use a wedge-shaped cushion or lumbar pad. Your feet should rest flat on the floor. Your forearms should rest on your desk or work surface with your elbows almost at a right angle.
When you have to lift heavy objects, don't bend at the waist. Squat with your legs and keep your back upright as you grasp the object and stand upright again. Let your legs do the lifting, not your back.
Finally, ask your doctor or health club trainer about back-strengthening exercises. You might also check with your local YMCA or hospital for back-strengthening classes. These stretching and strengthening exercises can help chronic back pain and prevent future episodes. Also, some forms of yoga and tai chi may help you learn proper posture and improve strength, balance, and flexibility.