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10 Things to Stop Doing if You Have Low Back Pain

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Chronic low back pain is a common problem and can affect your work, family and recreational activities. While there is no specific cure for low back pain, there are some steps you can take now to start managing the symptoms coming from your back.

  1. Stop Slouching. One of the most common causes of low back pain is poor sitting posture. The strain on the back while sitting in a slouched position can cause excessive pressure on the joints, muscles and discs, causing pain. Learn to sit with correct posture and maintain that posture at all times to help decrease or eliminate your low back pain. Also be sure your workspace is set up properly at home and at work.

  2. Stop avoiding exercise. It may hurt to get started, but exercise is proven to be beneficial for most low back pain. It helps keep your core muscles strong, provides increased circulation to your joints and discs, and it gives you a sense of well-being. Plus, being a couch potato can really put your low back in a poor posture (see above).

  3. Stop searching for a miracle cure. We’ve all seen the advertisements that promise a miracle cure for your low back pain. Hanging by your feet on an inversion table, rubbing healing balms on your back or spending money on fancy computerized traction devices all sound effective, but the evidence indicates that many of these miracle cures are not beneficial.

  4. Stop focusing on a specific diagnosis. Up to 85% of low back pain can be classified as "non-specific." This means that the origin of your pain cannot be localized to one specific structure or problem. While common diagnostic tests for low back pain can show the bones, discs and joints with great detail, no test can tell the exact cause of your pain with 100% accuracy.

  5. Stop lifting heavy things. One of the top causes of low back pain is frequent heavy lifting. If your job requires that you lift heavy items, ask your employer if special equipment (or an extra set of hands) is available to help ease the load on your lower back.

  6. Stop repetitive bending. Another common cause of low back pain is frequent forward bending. Bending forward a lot can cause increased pressure on the discs in the back and can lead to muscle aches and pains. Limit your forward bending, and be sure to perform low back exercises that focus on backward bending to help offset the repetitive forward bending.

  7. Stop listening to other people’s horror stories. You know the scenario: You are bent over in obvious pain, waiting to see the doctor, and the person next to you tells you a 10-minute tale of how their Uncle Gordon had low back pain that required injections and surgery. But the pain still didn’t go away. Stop listening to these terrible stories. Most low back pain is short lived and can be managed quite effectively with exercise and postural correction. Of course, some low back conditions are serious and require surgery, but that is a conversation you should have with your doctor, not the guy in the waiting room.

  8. Stop trying passive treatments. Passive treatments like heat, ice or ultrasound may feel good, but their effect is usually only temporary. Most research indicates that active self-care exercise and postural correction is an effective remedy for low back pain. A visit to your physical therapist can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.

  9. Stop smoking. If you smoke, you have probably heard of the negative effects that it can have on your health. Some studies indicate that smoking can also increase your chance of having low back pain. Talk to you doctor today to come up with a plan to quit smoking to help your low back pain.

  10. Stop waiting for your pain to go away. If you have had pain for more than a week or two, see your doctor or physical therapist. (Many states allow direct access to physical therapy.) While it is noble to try to manage the pain yourself, the earlier you start treatment, the better your chances are of making a smooth recovery and quickly returning to normal function.

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