10 Tips for Preventing Back Pain

If you’re experiencing back pain, or even a stiff neck, look to your lifestyle. The way you sleep, lift and twist your body may be responsible. But preventing back pain may actually be the simplest way to deal with it. Follow these 10 tips—you’ll feel better now and ward off any future problems.

Woman holding lower back due to back pain
Dirima/Deposit Photos

Lift Safely

Safe lifting involves using your legs to spare your back. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and keep the object being lifted close to your body.

It is also a good idea to be aware of unsafe lifting techniques so that you can avoid them. Unsafe lifting techniques usually involve positions that will cause you strain when you add a load to them.


Minimize and Avoid Twisting Motions

The use of twisting motions should be carefully monitored and scaled back or eliminated as appropriate. You should avoid twisting when lifting heavy objects.

When doing heavy work, such as housework, try to keep twisting to a minimum. In other activities, pay close attention to how you are moving your spine as well as any warning signs, such as pain or tightness that may indicate trouble.

Scale back on the twisting according to the warning signs your body gives you.


Drink Plenty of Water

The adult human body is about 50% to 60% water. Enough water keeps us fluid, rather than stiff.

Drinking plenty of water enhances the thickness of intervertebral disks, keeping them the healthy shock absorbers they are.

Water is necessary for nearly every bodily process, so it’s good to have in generous supply. There’s no consensus about exactly how much water people need to consume, but six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day is generally fine. (It is difficult to drink too much water, though some people take it to risky extremes.)


Stay Active and Strengthen Your Abs

Exercise and activity keep the muscles of the spine strong. The most important muscles to strengthen to avoid back pain are your abdominals.

Include stretching in your fitness program to avoid stiffness, which causes pain. Another reason to stay flexible is that stiff muscles are a precursor to injury.


Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is generally an excellent way to prevent all kinds of diseases and discomforts. For the spine, a healthy weight helps prevent compression and loading of the intervertebral disks, prevents postural abnormalities (such as anterior pelvic tilt), and interrupts a sedentary lifestyle, which can be responsible for stiff and/or weak muscles.


Research Sleeping Positions

Finding a sleeping position that works for you can help you avoid placing unnecessary strains on your back or neck. Doctors tend to vary when recommending ideal sleep positions. So, trusting your comfort levels and using your judgment are good accompaniments to their advice.


Warm Up When Exercising

When exercising, warm-ups are a must. A warm-up means 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity just before the exercise session. Recommendations by experts vary as to whether the warm-up period should include stretching.

The purpose of a warm-up is to gradually acclimate the muscles to a more intense activity level to prevent injury, and therefore pain.


Cool Down

During the cool-down period after exercise, your muscles are still warm from exercising, so they are very receptive to stretching. Stretching will be less painful during cool down, as well. Stretching relieves muscle tightness, which is one cause of back pain.


Interrupt Long Periods of Sitting

If you sit for long periods, force yourself to get up from your chair as much as your work environment will permit. Sitting loads the spine and compresses the disks, leading to disk problems. Slaving over a computer for long periods can also cause neck and posture problems, such as kyphosis.


Try a Holistic Approach

Holistic bodywork techniques and systems are a great way to keep the structures of your spine tuned up for a lifetime. Try any of these:

9 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.
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Preventing back pain at work and at home.

  2. Serra-Prat M, Lorenzo I, Palomera E, Ramírez S, Yébenes JC. Total body water and intracellular water relationships with muscle strength, frailty and functional performance in an elderly population. A cross-sectional study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2019;23(1):96-101. doi:10.1007/s12603-018-1129-y

  3. Chokan K, Murakami H, Endo H, et al. Evaluation of water retention in lumbar intervertebral disks before and after exercise stress with T2 mapping. Spine. 2016;41(7):E430-E436. doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000001283

  4. Hew-Butler T, Smith-Hale V, Pollard-McGrandy A, VanSumeren M. Of mice and men—the physiology, psychology, and pathology of overhydration. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1539. doi:10.3390/nu11071539

  5. Chang WD, Lin HY, Lai PT. Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(3):619-622. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.619

  6. Fontana Carvalho AP, Dufresne SS, Rogerio de Oliveira M, et al. Effects of lumbar stabilization and muscular stretching on pain, disabilities, postural control and muscle activation in pregnant woman with low back pain. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2020;56(3):297-306. doi:10.23736/S1973-9087.20.06086-4

  7. Park K, Seo K. The effects on the pain index and lumbar flexibility of obese patients with low back pain after PNF scapular and PNF pelvic patterns. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(10):1571-1574. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1571

  8. MedlinePlus. How to avoid exercise injuries.

  9. Bontrup C, Taylor WR, Fliesser M, et al. Low back pain and its relationship with sitting behaviour among sedentary office workers. Appl Ergon. 2019;81:102894. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2019.102894

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.