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Five Practical Tips to Cope with Back Pain

We, as humans, are becoming increasingly sedentary and less active as science advances. Compared to our ancestors, we engage in only half the physical activity. Consequently, everyday health issues such as obesity and back pain have become major medical challenges.

Besides the belly popping out, another major problem that can arise from sitting in front of your desk is back pain. It is a common medical problem affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lifetime.

However, sitting for long hours isn't the only cause of back pain. Health experts affirm several other factors contribute to this problem.

Lumbar region in human skeleton
Image: The Source of Back Pain by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My Back Pain Story

I endured back pain for almost a year. I initially took a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug called ketorolac for two weeks, but it didn't make any meaningful change in my symptoms. The pain was always there, and the drug only provided me with momentary relief.

After taking the medication for a few days, the usual dose was not working anymore. I had two choices: increase my ketorolac dose or try a different pain reliever.

Being let down by ketorolac was a wake-up call for me. I realized that taking painkillers wouldn't help my case in the long run and might even make it worse.

For your information: most pain medications, either narcotic or nonnarcotic, work by binding to receptors in the brain and blocking the effects of special enzymes. Depending on the half-life, these drugs help alleviate pain for a certain duration (e.g., 4 hrs, 6 hrs, 8 hrs, 12 hrs, etc.). However, they also have some serious side effects such as acidity, heartburn, and gastric irritation.

Recommended Reading: Climbing the Pain Ladder: Understanding Pain Medications.

After becoming aware of the risks of continuing with painkillers, I decided that I must quit ketorolac and should try to address the problem at its root. Here are a few strategies that I used to deal with my back pain. I hope it will also be useful to you.

Stand Proud

Person demonstrating correct standing posture with straight back, shoulders pulled back, chest out, and head aligned above shoulders, emphasizing spinal alignment and balance.

Poor posture is a big reason people get back pain. When your posture is off, it can stress your muscles, spinal joints, and discs. This might not be the main reason for your back pain, but it can definitely make it worse. So, when you stand, make sure to pull your shoulders back, push your chest out, and keep your back straight.

A bad standing posture can also lead to back pain. To maintain your spine's natural curves, your head should be straight and lined up with your shoulders. If your shoulders and hips aren’t lined up right, your chances of getting back pain or making it worse go up. Also, don’t let your shoulders slump forward, as this can put too much pressure on one leg.

Sit Properly

image showing the contrast between poor and better sitting habits to mitigate back pain

Prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture, can lead to back pain. This happens because it puts extra stress on your back, neck, arms, and legs, causing muscle strain and pressure on your spine. However, it's not accurate to say that sitting improperly is the main reason for back pain, as several factors contribute, including physical condition and workspace environment.

Some people suggest using exercise balls instead of regular chairs to help strengthen core muscles. However, there is no solid evidence that they're more effective at preventing back pain. While they might make your core muscles work harder, they could also cause your spine to compress, and the overall benefits are small. Experts recommend changing your sitting options and moving around more rather than sitting on an exercise ball all day.

No matter what you sit on, taking breaks from prolonged sitting is important to reduce the risk of back pain and other health issues associated with being less mobile.


Female athlete in a blue tracksuit performing a stretching exercise on a grassy field, reaching towards her outstretched leg with a pained expression, indicating a possible strain or effort, with a soccer goal in the background.

Staying in bed for too long when you have back pain isn't a good idea because your muscles can get weaker from not moving. This happens because when you don't use your muscles, they can start to shrink after just a few weeks. But, it's not exactly true that lying down always makes things worse. Sometimes, when the pain starts, resting can actually help.

However, physical activity and stretching is often a better way to deal with back pain. Stretching helps make your muscles and the tissues around them longer, which can help you feel better faster. So, if your back hurts for a long time, try not to just lie there. Doing some gentle stretches can really help.

Remember, lying down all day isn't the best for back pain, but standing or sitting too much isn't great either. Finding a good mix of resting, moving, and stretching can help manage the pain. Always check with a doctor to find out the best way to move and stretch, especially for your own situation.

Sleep Correctly

Image of a woman sleeping on her side and a pillow placed between her knees for proper spinal alignment and back support.

Sleeping on your side with legs supported can offer numerous health benefits, including spinal alignment, pain relief, and improved digestion. This position helps maintain the spine's natural curve, reducing pressure on your back and potentially alleviating pain.

Another benefit of side sleeping is reduced snoring, as it keeps airways more open compared to back sleeping. For people with stomach problems, this sleeping position can help with digestion and faster waste removal from the brain.

Side sleeping is also recommended for pregnant women as it improves blood flow through the circulatory system. This position benefits both the mother and the fetus by preventing the uterus from putting too much pressure on the vein that carries blood back to the heart.

Put a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your lower back. Remember, the right mattress and pillow are key to making the most of these benefits.

Eat Right

Fresh fruits are an abundant source of antioxidants.

Eating right is key to managing back pain because it keeps your spine and muscles healthy. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are especially important for strong bones, which can lower the chance of spine problems. You can find calcium in dairy, green veggies, beans, and some fish.

It's also good to pair calcium with magnesium, which is in vegetables, nuts, and grains, to help your bones stay healthy. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium better and comes from fatty fish, certain fortified foods, and sunlight.

Don't forget about vitamin K2 and vitamin C, which are important for your bones and muscles too. K2 is in meat and dairy, while C is in lots of fruits and veggies. Protein is also crucial for strong bones and muscles.

If you can't get all these nutrients from your diet, you might think about vitamin supplements, but talk to a doctor first.

Wrapping Up

Dealing with back pain doesn't mean it has to take over your life. You've got plenty of ways to fight back, from fixing your posture and choosing smarter sitting habits to stretching, sleeping better, and eating right for your bones and muscles. Each tip offers a way to ease or prevent back pain, looking after your whole body in the process.

It's really about finding what works for you and making small, smart changes to your daily routine. And always, before you dive into new health habits or think about supplements, chatting with a doctor is a smart move. Here's to less back pain and more good days!

⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.