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7 things to avoid when you struggle with back pain

stop doing these things

One of the common questions when having back pain is what to avoid and what to do to ease the pain. Some people bite through the pain and keep going. Others go to the other extreme where they have fear to move at all. Both extremes may lead to worsening of the pain. When trying to manage back pain it is important to learn how to be more conscious of your back and it’s mobility. In this post I’ll talk about what to avoid when you struggle with back pain to prevent it from getting worse.

So when you have back pain, DO NOT: 

Don't sit for long hours straight

don't sit for too long

Why?

Sitting down means a lot of extra pressure comes on your lower spine. On top of that most people lean forward while sitting to work on a laptop or to watch something on their smartphone. This gives extra pressure on both your neck and upper back.

What is better?

Sitting is inevitable in our modern day lives, but be more conscious of your posture, your chair and your time sitting down. Focus on these 3 things:

  1. Find a chair that offers back support
  2. Sit with a correct posture: sit up straight and make yourself tall, don’t cross your legs, keep your shoulders rolled back and your neck and head in one line with your spine
  3. Move away from your chair at least every hour, you can either take a bathroom or coffee break, take a short walk, or even do some quick stretches. This will also help as a mental break from work, which will enhance your productivity, nice bonus!

If you really want to reduce the time you’re sitting, try out a standing desk instead.

Don't lock your knees when standing

don't lock your knees

Why?

Not only sitting, but also standing for long periods of time can hurt your back. When you lock your knees while standing (→ overstretching to a point they feel ‘locked’), they restrict your blood flow. Furthermore, your pelvis will want to compensate by tilting, giving more pressure on your spine again.

What is better?

When you know you’ll have to stand for a long time (e.g. at a concert or festival), apply these tricks:

  • Shift weight between your feet so you change your position regularly
  • Microbend and stretch your knees one at a time
  • Adapt a good general standing posture: stand tall, keep your shoulders straight, your neck and head aligned with your spine (especially when texting on your phone), and feel grounded through your feet
  • Stay active and do regular exercises and stretches: the benefits of exercising are countless, so next time you have to stand and wait, do some stretches for example

Start doing what helps

Exercise (when done correctly) helps overcome back pain. Book a free consultation and beat yours.

Don't lift heavy items or bend forward frequently

heavy lifting

Why?

I’m sure you can guess, but yes lifting heavy weights, especially if you do it wrong, puts a ton of pressure on that precious spine of yours.

What is better?

When lifting heavy items, try to use a tool if possible or ask help to at least divide the weight between multiple people. When there is no other option but to lift it on your own, use the correct posture.
That means:

  • Bend through the knees, not your waist
  • Use your leg muscles to get up instead of your back. Your leg muscles are way stronger
  • Hold whatever item your lifting as close to you as possible, the further away you hold it, the more pressure will come on your back
  • At all costs: don’t twist and lift, this can cause serious damage to your back and spine! Always face the item you’re lifting

And of course, strength training will help strengthen your core muscles which will help with the lifting (take a look at all those Olympic weight lifters).

Don't stop exercising

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Why?

It’s understandable when feeling pain, one might fear to exercise to not make the pain any worse. Years and years ago, when people went to see a doctor for their painful back, they were prescribed with bed rest. In this day and age, research taught us that complete rest can actually worsen the pain. Doctors now will recommend people with back pain to move as tolerated. Exercises will eventually help strengthen your back, increase flexibility, and give you pain-free mobility.

What is better?

According to a recent clinical guideline on middle-aged and elderly people with back pain these are the recommendations:

  • Do an exercise program for at least 12 weeks
  • Be physically active at least 3x/week
  • Try yoga, tai chi, or motor control exercises

Other recommendations are to do a combination of

  • aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, riding a bike, group classes)
  • strength training (weight training with free weights, resistance bands, or body weight)
  • and stretching (yoga, tai chi)

If you’re looking for something to start with that is simple and short, check out my other blog post ‘5 easy exercises to do for back pain’.

Don't do the wrong exercises

personal trainer with barbell

Why?

Exercise is good, but doing the wrong exercises will cause more problems, which can lead to you fearing to move at all. This can lead to more pain again and will get you in a negative vicious circle.
Exercises like sit-ups, double leg lifts, forward bends, and overhead weight lifting are not the right exercises when you have back pain. Also be careful with high-impact sports like running, jumping, volleyball, …), they are called high-impact for a reason.

What is better?

  • Do proper stretches before starting any exercise or activity
  • Find alternatives for the exercises that cause pain (e.g. do a plank instead of a sit-up or sit on a stability ball to do sit-ups)
  • Do the ‘5 easy exercises for back pain’ from my previous post, they’re proved to be good
  • If you’re unsure which exercises you should do or how to build a program for your back pain, consult with your physician, your physiotherapist, or get in touch with me as your personal trainer

Don't just wait until the pain is over

Why?

Waiting implies inactivity and inactivity is the enemy here. It weakens your back muscles and gives you more fear to take that first step to move again.

What is better?

Take your life back into your hands, don’t let the pain take over. Keep moving without forcing anything. Regular exercise, walking, being conscious of your posture, and stretching are recommended. They will not only benefit your back, but will give you lots of other health benefits!

Learn more about back pain with our comprehensive guide

Get more tips and tricks on what to do when you have back pain with our FREE guide.

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Don't pay a ton of money on (useless) programs, drugs or treatments

Why?

Don’t spend a fortune when there are easy fixes that don’t cost a lot. A physician can give you proper advice on what will work best.

What is better?

According to a clinical practice guideline, superficial heat/ice, a good massage, or mindfulness-based stress reduction are good, money-conscious options for back pain.

Other tips are:

  • Listen to your physician’s recommendations
  • Do some physical activity as tolerated, start with exercises
  • Find a better sleeping position (lie on your side with a pillow between your knees)
  • Get a healthy lifestyle: stop smoking, lose weight, eat healthier, look at your lifestyle and see where improvements are possible

If you need help in any of those cases, get a healthcare worker to help you out or hire me as your personal trainer to help you on your health journey. It is a good investment of money if you see how being healthy can benefit you. It will prevent problems in the future that will give you more medical costs otherwise.

Those were the things to avoid when you struggle with back pain

I’ve talked to you about 7 things to avoid when you have back pain. They key things to remember though are to always mind your posture (whether you are standing, sitting, or even sleeping); to keep exercising, but doing the right exercises for your body; to listen to the advice of your health care worker; and to get a certified personal trainer like me to get a customized program for back strengthening.

Know that this blog post doesn’t replace professional medical advice or a personal consultation with me.

Book a free consultation with me if you’re interested in starting a back strengthening program.

Please share this post so more people learn on how to handle back pain.

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things to avoid with back pain

Bibliography

  1. Wong JJ, Côté P, Sutton DA, Randhawa K, Yu H, Varatharajan S, Goldgrub R, Nordin M, Gross DP, Shearer HM, Carroll LJ, Stern PJ, Ameis A, Southerst D, Mior S, Stupar M, Varatharajan T, Taylor-Vaisey A. Clinical practice guidelines for the noninvasive management of low back pain: A systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. European Journal of Pain, 2017; 21:201-216.
  2. Sears, B. Top 10 things to stop doing if you have low back pain. URL: https://www.verywellhealth.com/10-things-to-stop-doing-if-you-have-low-back-pain-3954666

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