Patient Resources

Information About Back Pain (from Mayo Clinic)

If you have back pain, you're not alone. Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work. Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes. Simple home treatment(s), good posture, and proper movements often will heal your back within a few weeks and keep it functional for the long haul. 

Some factors might put you at greater risk of developing back pain, including:

  • Age. Even though anyone can have back pain (even children and teens), back pain is more common as you get older.
  • Lack of exercise. Weak, unused muscles in your back might lead to back pain.
  • Excess weight. Carrying too much weight puts extra stress on your back.
  • Diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can contribute to back pain.
  • Improper lifting. Using your back instead of your legs when picking things up can lead to back pain.
  • Smoking. This can keep your body from delivering enough nutrients to the disks in your back.

You may be able to avoid back pain or prevent it from recurring by keeping in shape and learning to keep good posture and body movements. To keep your back healthy and strong:

  • Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don't strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are good choices. Talk with your doctor about which activities are best for you.
  • Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) help condition these muscles so that they work together to support your back. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs aligns your pelvic bones to improve how your back feels. Your doctor can tell which exercises are right for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you're overweight, trimming down can lessen strain on your back.
  • Stand smart. Maintain a neutral pelvic position and stand up straight. If you must stand for long periods, place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back. Alternate feet. Good posture can reduce the stress on back muscles.
  • Sit smart. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Consider placing a small pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level. Change your position frequently, at least every half-hour.
  • Lift smart. Avoid heavy lifting, if possible, but if you must lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight — no twisting — and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.

Additional Links

  • Patient FACTS Handout for Low Back Pain (available in English only)
  • HEALTH TiPS Handout for Low Back Pain (available in English or Spanish)
  • has information on back pain for patients
  • Take Charge of Pain is an interactive online program to help you manage pain