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Back Pain Basics

Back pain is a very common complaint, but if you are one of the millions of people who suffer from it, that does not make you feel any better. It certainly will not make it go away. Here are key tips to remember that can help prevent and treat it.



As you perform any movement or activity, stop and take a moment to consider how the task is going to position your back. Ask yourself… Is this activity/task the best way for me to perform it? Will I be reaching too far, lifting something too heavy alone or contorting into a position meant only for a gymnast? If the answer is yes or even maybe to any of these questions, this is a red flag that you should change how you are about to perform the task at hand.


Helpful points to consider:


  • Always perform an activity as close and in front of you as possible to reduce a twisting or leaning position. Think of a little square in front of your belly. If you cannot complete the task within that space, move your feet, square up to the job, and then complete it.

  • Engage help to lift an object that is or may be too heavy for you alone and the risk of injury.

  • Use step stools to perform activities that require reaching high and/or arching your back to extremes.

  • Sit on an inverted bucket or small step to perform low-level activities and avoid bending at the waist for prolonged periods of time.



Mom’s always right, especially when it comes to sitting up straight. Seriously, both sitting and standing postures can greatly affect the health of your back.


When sitting, the goal is to remain upright with your ears above your shoulders, using some lumbar support to help maintain the proper spinal alignment. This can range from supports built right into the chair to a small pillow or rolled towel. Feet should be kept flat on the ground, with hips and knees at relative 90-degree angles.


When standing, keep your ears above your shoulders and shoulders in line with your hips, which in turn will align with your feet. Try to avoid prolonged leaning forward, backward or side-to-side. If you are required to stand for long periods of time, it is recommended to alternate having each footrest on a small stool to help “shift” weight on and off one side at a time.



We are not all designed to be like Mr. Olympia, but with proper lifting mechanics, we can lift a reasonable amount of weight safely. The key is to squat and lift with your legs to minimize bending at the waist and keep the object as close as possible to the center of your body. Together, there is less chance of tip-over and, therefore, less strain on the lower back muscles. Remember, only lift a comfortable weight, even with proper mechanics, and don’t be shy in asking for help with the task at hand.



The benefits of sleep are well-documented. However, your position when sleeping can significantly impact your sleep quality if it is truly restful. For example, for those of us “side sleepers,” placing a body pillow between our legs helps keep the pelvis in good alignment – critical as it is at the foundation of your spine.


Equally important is where you sleep. Yes, we all do it, yet try to minimize how often you fall asleep on the couch or recliner in a position that will inevitably cause back soreness or pain. If you feel yourself dozing off, grab that body pillow and head to bed. Your back will thank you for it.



Movement is very important to keep your back healthy. While there is no one exercise or movement activity that is right for everyone due to one’s personal limitations, pain, and abilities, universally moving is a great way to keep both your cardiovascular system and spine in shape. There are any number of options, from biking and jogging to swimming, pilates, or even Zumba. The key is to find a hobby, exercise, or activity you enjoy to keep the back joints flexible and lubricated, plus muscles strong. Even gentle chair yoga and water walking can have a great impact on back health and reduce discomfort.



Unfortunately, there are some people who will suffer some amount of lower back pain regardless of efforts to alleviate it. But for MOST people, their pain can be addressed. Step one is to speak with your doctor, physical therapist or other healthcare provider. Far too often, people chalk up their pain to old age or sports injury, yet even if that’s the case, both can usually be benefitted by a proper evaluation and treatment by a health care provider.


The Road to Relief

As physical therapists, we specialize in body movement and the areas that can create pain when the patient isn’t functioning properly. Your “road” begins with a thorough evaluation that becomes the basis of a custom treatment plan for your particular issue. Many patients are referred by their primary physician. However, as an NJ-based practice, we have direct access and can treat patients even more quickly, allowing speedier relief. If, at any time amid our evaluation and/or care, there is a condition beyond our scope, we would refer the patients to their healthcare provider or specialist.


We make every effort to ensure that we accurately represent the injury advice and prognosis displayed throughout this report. However, examples of injuries and their prognosis are based on typical representations of those injuries that we commonly see in our physical therapy clinic. The information given is not intended as a representation of every individual’s potential injury. As with any injury, each person’s symptoms can vary widely, and each person’s recovery from injury can also vary depending upon background, genetics, previous medical history, application of exercises, posture, motivation to follow physical therapist's advice, and various other physical factors. It is impossible to give a 100% complete, accurate diagnosis and prognosis without a thorough physical examination, and likewise, the advice given for the management of an injury cannot be deemed fully accurate in the absence of this examination from one of the physical therapists at Davis PTSR. Significant injury risk is possible if you do not follow due diligence and seek suitable professional advice about your injury. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied in this report.

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