10 Strategies to Avoid Lower Back Pain

Westwood Total Health


The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles and plays a supportive role for our bodies – at rest and in motion. According to the American Chiropractic Association, you can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association tells us over 80% of Canadians can expect to suffer an episode of lower back pain in their lifetime, and it is a leading cause of disability and prolonged work absences. While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements—for example, picking up a pencil from the floor— can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Lower back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.

To keep you on your feet in 2019, here are 10 top strategies to prevent lower back pain:

1. Maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Healthy diet and weight to avoid lower back pain

If you are making good food choices and maintaining your weight, chances are your back will be healthy too. If you’re carrying extra weight, your back will have to work harder to support you. Building the habit of reaching for vegetables versus a sugary snack alone can do wonders for your energy and body composition.

2. Remain active.

Remain active to avoid lower back pain

Health Canada states, “To be active every day is a step towards better health and healthy body weight. It is recommended that adults accumulate at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity, each week and that children and youth accumulate at least 60 minutes per day.

If you are starting any exercise program, always consult with a qualified health professional first. If you have a history of low back pain, look for activities that aren’t aggravating to your lower back. Commonly preferred activities are walking, biking, swimming and yoga. Biking, although generally easier on the knees can aggravate a disc injury. Swimming is great for the whole body and is non-weight bearing,but make sure to avoid excessive twisting.

3. Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.

“Prolonged inactivity can actually increase back pain as the back becomes stiff, weak, and deconditioned. As the pain increases, many patients reduce their activity and exercise levels, resulting in even more back pain and aggravating the cycle of inactivity and back pain recurrence. For most back problems, exercise and movement are the natural stimuli for the healing process. Controlled, gradual and progressive exercise, rather than inactivity and bed rest, most often provides the best long-term solution for reducing back pain and preventing (or lessening) future episodes of pain,” confirms Spine-Health.com.

4. Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities.

Stretch to avoid lower back pain

Harvard Medical School suggests, “Stretching is a valuable component of a treatment plan for anyone plagued by back problems. Supple, well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury, while less flexible muscles and connective tissues restrict joint mobility, which increases the likelihood of sprains and strains.” Stretching the hips, glutes and legs can take a lot of stress off the lower back.

Two favourites are:

Knee to Chest Stretch

Knee to chest to avoid lower back pain
  1. Lie on your back (use carpet or yoga mat for comfort) with one knee bent and your other leg flat on the floor in front of you.
  2. Raise one bent knee up high enough so you can interlock your fingers just below the knee, as seen in the picture. This technique promotes less stress on your low back and reduces unnecessary tension.
  3. Once in the knee to chest position, gently pull the bent knee towards your stomach, using your hands.
  4. While pulling, avoid excessive movement in your low back and pelvis while trying to relax your legs as best you can to optimize the stretch. Keeping your spine in neutral and its optimal position will allow you to get the stretch where you need it most.
  5. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and remember to breathe. This allows the muscles in your low back and legs to relax.
  6. Once time is up, return your legs to the starting position on the floor and repeat the other leg.

Hamstring Stretch

hamstring stretch to avoid lower back pain
hamstring stretches to avoid lower back pain

Lie on your back (use carpet or yoga mat for comfort) with one knee bent and the other leg flat on the floor.

  1. Gently raise one leg interlocking your hands behind the knee with your knee bent. If you are unable to do so, you can use a towel to wrap around the leg in the same position to make it easier on your low back.
  2. From there, straighten out your leg so the bottom of your foot is pointing to the ceiling. You want to have your leg about 90 degrees from the floor and have your leg as straight as possible to maximize the effects of the stretch. Remember to listen to your body and don’t push a position too far to prevent injury. You can modify the position by having a slight bend in the knee on the leg you are stretching or doing the same with the leg on the floor.
  3. While straightening your leg avoid excessive movement in your low back and pelvis while trying to relax your leg as best you can. Keeping your spine in neutral and its optimal position will allow you to get the stretch where you need it most.
  4. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and remember to breathe. This allows the muscles in your low back and legs to relax.
  5. Once time is up, return your legs to the starting position on the floor and switch legs.
    It is best to warm up before stretching – even just walking increases warmth in muscles.

A Stretch to Avoid – Standing Straight Leg Toe Touches

Avoid this stretch to avoid lower back pain

Standing toe touches is a common stretch performed by bending at the waist and hips in attempt to stretch the hamstring muscle. You may feel the stretch in your hamstrings but what exactly is going on in your lower back and is it safe?

Here are some reasons to avoid this stretch:

  • This position causes excessive stretching to the ligaments of the lower back that hold the vertebrae in place. Our vertebrae are what protect our spinal cord. The spinal cord is directly attached to the brain, which sends signals to and from the rest of our body. Vertebrae a pretty important role in our overall health.
  • Over time this can create a loosely held lumbar spine which can further damage your low back and result in more pain.
  • Not only can it lead to further low back pain but also potential further injury to those muscles and ligaments from the instability in your low back, which can greatly affect your overall quality of life.

Stop doing straight leg toe touches; your low back will thank you!

5. Maintain proper posture.

Proper posture to avoid lower back pain

The American Chiropractic Association states, “Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities. Correct posture:

  • Helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain
  • Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury
  • Allows muscles to work more efficiently, causing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue
  • Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.”

Working with a physiotherapist or trainer to strengthen weak postural muscles and stretch tight muscles will help to improve your overall posture.

6. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.

The Huffington Post reports, “Wearing heels causes the lower back to arch more than normal because the body weight is pushed forward. To compensate, the upper body has to lean back to maintain balance. This puts extra stress on the discs. Spending hours with your body in funky alignment can lead to muscle spasms and back pain.”

Comfortable, low-heeled shoes avoid extra stress on your back. Adding custom fit orthotics into your shoes is a way to improve conditions your body may have developed from improper foot alignment. Orthotics look like shoe insoles but are custom fit to correct pressure points and properly align your feet, keeping your back, hips, knees and spine in the correct position.

7. Sleep on a quality medium firm mattress to minimize any curve in your spine.

Quality sleep to avoid lower back pain

When you sleep, your back still needs the right support to keep your body in the proper alignment. Spine-Health.com asserts, “A mattress that provides both comfort and back support helps reduce low back pain, allowing the structures in the spine to really rest and rejuvenate during the night.”

8. Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.

Lift properly to avoid lower back pain

Engaging your core and lifting with your legs, not your back will help you avoid lower back pain. It is also important to strengthen the muscles in your core and back to keep them strong. Maintaining the normal curve in the lower back will also protect your spine when lifting.

9. Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.

WebMD tells us, “Smoking ages the spine, so avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke” while Spine-Health.com reports, “A new study strengthens the link between smoking and lower back pain, and also sheds light on the causes of degenerative lumbar spine problems.

The study on smoking and low back pain, which prospectively examined 1,337 physicians who graduated from Johns Hopkins University between 1948 and 1964, followed some participants for more than 50 years.

Researchers discovered that smoking history, hypertension and coronary artery disease – all of which are risk factors for atherosclerosis, or occlusion of the arteries – were significantly associated with the development of low back pain.

10. Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.

Office ergonomics to avoid lower back pain

Spine-Health.com confirms, “Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries and is often caused by ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair or heavy lifting. Applying ergonomic principles – the study of the workplace as it relates to the worker – can help prevent work-related back pain and back injury and help maintain a healthy back.” Have your spinal alignment and posture checked by a chiropractor. Since 1895, chiropractic care has focused on restoring and maintaining the proper alignment and function of the spine. Having your spine assessed by a licensed chiropractor for proper posture and alignment can alleviate and prevent injury.

About Westwood Total Health

Westwood Total Health is a busy, award winning chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage therapy clinic and has been providing health and wellness care to families in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody since 2006. The goal of chiropractic care at Westwood Total Health is to improve spinal alignment and function, which promotes health throughout the entire body. At Westwood Total Health our mission is to make the Tri-Cities the healthiest community in the country. Won’t you join us?