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Be realistic, too, about what you can handle, Boden says. “Know your limits and get help when you’re lifting something that you know is too heavy.”

According to the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT) at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, these are step-by-step instructions for proper lifting:

  • Stand close to the object with your feet spread apart, about the width of your shoulders.
  • Squat, bending your knees and hips, while keeping your back in proper alignment.
  • Contract your stomach muscles.
  • Lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Take care not to lift and twist at the same time.
  • If you’re lifting the object with another person, do it in unison. One person should say when to lift, walk, and unload.

Sitting and Standing:

Not all back pain patients are alike. Some gain relief from standing, while others feel better sitting, Boden says.

It depends on the cause of the back pain, adds Boden. People with disk cartilage problems tend to have more problems when they’re sitting and actually tend to feel better when they’re standing. The increased pressure in the abdomen, which occurs by virtue of sitting, rather than standing, is why those people get more symptoms while they’re sitting.”

People with disk problems should avoid prolonged sitting, Boden says. When they do sit, using a good lumbar cushion or reclining the seat backward can help take stress off the spine, he says. For example, people who get back pain while driving may want to tilt the seat backward and use lumbar support, then adjust their mirrors for comfort and safety.

For those who have more back pain while standing, the culprit is often a different problem: arthritis in the tiny facet joints on the back of the spine, Boden says. People with this problem tend to lean or hunch forward when they walk, or they lean onto shopping carts. “They’re trying to take pressure off those facet joints,” Boden says. These patients usually feel better when they sit.

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