Stretch. Don't sit slumped in your desk chair all day. Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way. "Because most of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our jobs, it's important to stand up and stretch backward throughout the day," Reicherter says. Don't forget to also stretch your legs. Some people find relief from their back pain by doing a regular stretching routine, like yoga.
Think ergonomically. Design your workspace so you don't have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach way out for your mouse. Use a desk chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.
Watch your posture. Slumping makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Be especially careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.
Wear low heels. Exchange your four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels may create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine.
Kick the habit.
Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems. Osteoporosis can in turn lead to compression fractures of the spine. Recent research found that smokers are more likely to have low back pain compared with nonsmokers.
Watch your weight. Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.
Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) can help reduce back pain. Acetaminophen (Actamin, Panadol, Tylenol) is another over-the-counter option for pain management. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.
Call your doctor if:
- Your low back pain is severe, doesn't go away after a few days, or it hurts even when you're at rest or lying down.
- You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking.
- You lose control over your bowels or bladder.
These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.