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Banish Your Back Pain

You know you should take care of your back -- after all, you only have one. The back is your ticket to sitting, standing, moving your head, arms and legs. Eighty percent of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health, will experience back pain at least once in their lifetime. Most back pain is acute, and resolves itself within a few days to weeks. If back pain persists for longer than three months, it's going to last until you see a specialist.

Before your back gets "out of whack", think about following these simple principles and exercises:


  • Keep your body aligned (yes, that means sitting and standing straight). Your body should feel like one vertical line.
  • Don't let your muscles tire. Get up and move for a few minutes every hour or so during the day.
  • Minimize back strain with ergonomically designed office chairs and footrests. Try to avoid straining your neck with your shoulders and head tilted forward.
  • Wear shoes that provide support -- that means out with the high heels and pointed shoes.
  • Move with deliberate motion so your back is ready to support your movement.
  • Don't bend over for long periods of time, as in gardening. Try a sitting position to do activities that normally require bending over.


  • Think first about what you're going to lift, how you're going to lift, and the motions needed to transfer the object to its final destination.
  • Stand close to what you plan to lift.
  • Bend at the hips and knees.
  • Hold the object close to your body.
  • Press down with your feet, and lift with your legs -- NOT YOUR BACK!


Doing regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the stomach back and leg muscles should be on everyone's daily "to do" list. These exercises require only a mat and a little sweat.

  • PELVIC TILT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Tighten your stomach and buttocks and gently press your lower back toward the mat. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • PARTIAL SIT-UP: Lie on your back with your feet flat, your knees bent, and your arms crossed over your chest. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the mat. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • BACK STRETCH: Lie on the back, hands above your head. Bend knees and keep your feet on the floor. Roll your knees to one side, slowly, Stay on one side for 10 seconds. Repeat three times on each side.
  • DEEP LUNGE: Kneel on one knee, the other foot in front, flat and in line with your back foot. Lift the back knee up, looking forward. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times on each side.
  • ONE-LEG STAND: Steady yourself with one hand on a wall for support. Bend one leg up behind you. Hold your foot for 10 seconds, and repeat three times each side.
  • KNEE TO CHEST: Lie on your back. Bring one knee up and pull it gently into your chest for five seconds. Repeat for up to five times each side.
  • BACK STABILIZER: Kneel on all fours with your back straight. Tighten your stomach. Keep your back straight, and raise one arm in front of you and hold for 10 seconds. Do not rotate your body. Repeat 10 times each arm. You can also do this exercise raising a leg instead of the arm.
Note: Before starting these exercises, consult your physician or specialist.