10 Things to Stop Doing If You Have Low Back Pain

People often spend a lot of time researching what to do about lower back pain. That can be useful. But knowing what not to do when you have low back pain can be just as (or even more) important.

Things like poor sitting posture, repetitive bending, lifting heavy objects, and smoking can all worsen low back pain, for example. And even if you are getting treatment, it may persist if these and other factors continue to work against you.

This article covers 10 things to try to stop doing when you have lower back pain. One or more of these may be just what's getting in the way of a better quality of life.


Stop Slouching

Businessman on telephone

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First and foremost, stop slouching. One of the most common cause 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.


Stop Avoiding Exercise

Photo of a woman performing the upward dog yoga position.

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Exercise for your back 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.


Stop Searching for a Miracle Cure

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Stop searching for a miracle cure for your back pain. 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.


Stop Lifting Heavy Things

Worker lifting cardboard box

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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.


Stop Repetitive Bending

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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 whenever possible. Be sure to perform low back exercises that focus on backward bending to help offset any repetitive forward bending.


Stop Waiting for the Pain to Go Away

Physical Therapist Examining a Patient

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If you have had pain for more than a week or two, see your healthcare provider 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.

Back pain can limit your ability to move comfortably and can prevent you from enjoying your normal recreational activities. Check in with your healthcare provider to get back to your normal lifestyle quickly and safely.


Stop Looking for a Specific Diagnosis

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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 the pain cannot be pinned 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.


Stop Trying Passive Treatments

Photo of a woman using heat on her back.

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Passive treatments like heat, ice, or ultrasound therapy may feel good, but their effect is usually only temporary. Most research indicates that active self-care exercise and postural correction are effective remedies for low back pain.

A visit to your physical therapist can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.


Stop Comparing and Catastrophizing

Photo of people waiting in doctors office.

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Just because someone else's back pain became debilitating and/or required surgical treatment doesn't mean yours will.

In fact, 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 healthcare provider—not the guy in the waiting room.


Stop Smoking

Photo of a woman smoking outside her office.

Seb Oliver / Getty Images

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 lower back pain.

Talk to your healthcare provider to come up with a plan to quit smoking to help your low back pain.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.