man hunched over tablet
1 / 15

Sit Hunched

Do it too much, and it can flatten the natural curve of your spine and damage the cushioned disks between the bones. This can lead to early arthritis and other problems. Gently stretch and move your head and neck in all 4 directions every half hour. To ease any pain or spasm, try applying an ice pack or heating pad to the area. Be sure to cover the skin with a light towel or cloth first. See your doctor if the pain won’t go away. 

Swipe to advance
cupcakes
2 / 15

Too Many “Treats”

Choosing the wrong foods too often can lead to inflammation and leave out nutrients you need to be strong. Your body needs lean protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats like those from avocado and salmon to build strong muscles, bones, and soft tissue in your back. Be sure to get nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, too.

Swipe to advance
mattress store
3 / 15

Sleep on the Wrong Mattress

It should be firm enough to support your back, but soft enough to fit the shape of your body. Your ideal mattress can depend on how you sleep and whether you already have back pain. Want to see if a firmer one might help? Put yours on the floor for a couple of nights without the bedsprings. Some stores let you return a mattress, even after several weeks, if it causes back pain or other problems. 

Swipe to advance
man sleeping on back
4 / 15

Sleep on Your Back …

For some people, this position can cause low back pain or make it worse. But it can be hard to change how you sleep, since it’s a habit you’ve probably had for a long time. It may help to put a rolled towel or pillow under your knees to keep the natural curve of your back. You also can try different pillow heights for your neck to find what’s comfortable.

Swipe to advance
man sleeping on stomach
5 / 15

… Or on Your Belly

It’s better not to do it, especially if you have a back problem. You’re more likely to toss and turn, which can strain both your neck and lower back. If you’re a belly sleeper and don’t want to switch positions, it can help to lay your head on a very soft pillow or none at all to keep your neck in the right position.

Swipe to advance
pregnant woman sleeping
6 / 15

How Should You Sleep?

Side sleepers seem to have the most luck avoiding back pain. Slip a pillow between your legs to take pressure off your hips and lower back, and tuck your legs slightly toward your chest. This position can be especially comfortable for people who already have back pain and for pregnant women.

Swipe to advance
man with sore back
7 / 15

Sit Too Long

It stresses your back muscles, neck, and spine. Slouching makes it worse. Sit straight in a chair that supports your back, and set the height so your feet rest naturally on the floor. But no matter how comfortable you get, your back won’t like sitting for long stretches. Get up and move around for a couple of minutes every half hour to give your body a break. 

Swipe to advance
woman swimming
8 / 15

Skip Exercise

You’re more likely to have back pain if you’re not active. Your spine needs support from strong stomach and back muscles. Lifting weights can help. So can everyday activities like climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Low-impact exercises like walking, biking, or swimming can help protect the disks between the bones in your spine. Make it a habit for most days. Don’t be a “weekend warrior” who overdoes it and gets injured.

Swipe to advance
woman smoking
9 / 15

Smoke

Do it, and you’re 3 times more likely to get lower back pain. It can curb blood flow, including to your spine. That can make the cushioning disks between your bones break down quicker. It also can weaken bones and give you osteoporosis, and it can slow healing. Even coughs from smoking can cause back pain. If you smoke, make quitting your top health priority and ask your doctor for help.

Swipe to advance
hamburgers
10 / 15

Overeat

Extra pounds can strain the bones and muscles in your back, especially if you gain weight quickly. Eat slowly so that your body has a chance to let you know it’s full. Pick nutrition-packed munchies and meals so you feel satisfied with fewer calories. So if you snack on cheese or chips, try eating some veggies and plain yogurt instead.

Swipe to advance
children with backpacks
11 / 15

Overload Your Bag

Heavy weights can strain your back and tire out muscles that you need to support your spine. This can affect kids who lug many books. Your child’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of their body weight. Large, padded, adjustable shoulder straps help spread the weight evenly. But only if you use both straps. Slinging your pack or heavy purse over only one shoulder can cause strain.

Swipe to advance
man biking
12 / 15

Ride the Wrong Bike

Or just a badly adjusted one. It’s bad for your back if you have to hunch over to grab your handlebars the way pro cyclists do. (They train hard to do it safely.) You also may have back pain if you’re too stretched out or cramped up on your bicycle. A physical therapist can help you find a bike that’s a good fit and suggest exercises to help if you have lower back pain. 

Swipe to advance
woman with sore feet
13 / 15

Wear High Heels

You may overuse muscles in your lower back and harm your posture and your spine, especially as you age. If you wear them at the office, you might bring a pair of walking shoes for your commute. Regular foot and leg stretches, like rolling your foot on a tennis ball, can help prevent pain and strengthen muscles.

Swipe to advance
yoga
14 / 15

Should You Do Yoga?

Too much of any exercise -- including yoga -- can cause back pain. But in some cases, yoga can help relieve low back pain. There are lots of online resources and videos to help you get started. A yoga instructor can ensure that you use the proper form. Just 10-20 minutes a few times a week of this mind-body exercise might make you feel better. But don’t overdo it, and stop if it hurts.

Swipe to advance
woman doing crunches
15 / 15

Do Situps Incorrectly

Never let them flatten the natural curve in your spine. You don’t want to let your hip flexor muscles, which connect your thighs and lower back, do the work. When those muscles are too strong or too tight, they pull the lower spine, which can cause pain. Front and side planks -- where you support your stiff body on your hands, elbows, and feet -- are easier on your back and build core strength better.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/4/2017 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 04, 2017

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. Thinkstock
  2. Thinkstock
  3. Thinkstock
  4. Thinkstock
  5. Thinkstock
  6. Thinkstock
  7. Thinkstock
  8. Thinkstock
  9. Thinkstock
  10. Thinkstock
  11. Thinkstock
  12. Getty
  13. Thinkstock
  14. Getty
  15. Thinkstock

 

SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass.”

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Suffering for Fashion: Rethink Shoe and Bag Choices.”

American Council on Exercise: “I get low back pain during sit-ups. Am I doing something wrong or should I avoid them?”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Vitamin D deficiency, muscle function, and falls in elderly people.”

American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: “The effect of walking in high- and low-heeled shoes on erector spinae activity and pelvis kinematics during gait.”

American Lung Association: “Stop Smoking.”

Atherosclerosis: “Serum lipids in relation to sciatica among Finns.”

BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care: “The effect of slow spaced eating on hunger and satiety in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

Britishcycling.org: “Lower Back Pain on The Bike.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Why Smoking Will Worsen Your Chronic Pain.”

Cornell Food and Brand Lab: “Association of Nutrient-Dense Snack Combinations With Calories and Vegetable Intake.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Yoga for pain relief,” “Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups.”

Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research: “Text Neck Syndrome - Systematic Review.”

Journal of Novel Physiotherapies: “Prolong Wearing of High Heeled Shoes Can Cause Low Back Pain.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.”

NIH News in Health: “Yoga May Help Treat Back Pain.”

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: “Osteoporosis Overview.”

SleepBetter.org: “Ask SleepBetter: Changing My Sleep Position.”
The Sleep Better Council: “Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You.”

UCLA Spine Center: “Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Hot or cold for back pain?”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 04, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.