Tips for Moving to Make Your Back Feel Good

woman hiking in Vermont

Follow these tips to feel better and prevent future back pain.

About half of working age adults have lower back problems. Common causes of lower back pain include muscle strain, poor posture, and sprained ligaments that support the spine. Most of the people who experience lower back pain can return to feeling normal within a month. Here are some tips for home treatment and stretches you can do to feel better and prevent back pain in the future.

Using Heat and Ice

In the first 48 hours following a back injury, use an ice massage.

  • Apply ice gently and massage in a circular motion.
  • Focus using ice on a six-inch area where the pain is felt.
  • Avoid applying ice directly over the bones of the spine.
  • Don’t apply ice for more than five minutes at a time, to avoid ice burn.
  • Repeat ice massage two to five times a day.

After 48 hours of an injury, switch to heat therapy. 

  • Short applications of heat, about 15 to 20 minutes, are sufficient for minor back tension.
  • Longer applications of heat, up to 30 minutes, may be needed for more severe pain.

Stretches for Your Back

A knee-to-chest stretch is great for limbering up a stiff back, as it focuses on the muscles of your lower back.

  • Lie on your back on the floor or a firm surface.
  • Pull one knee up to your chest gently until you feel a stretch in your lower back.
  • Keep the other leg relaxed with either your knee bent or your leg extended.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

A spinal stretch helps increase the flexibility of the spinal column.

  • Stand erect and raise both hands over your head.
  • Stretch towards the ceiling. Use your arms, hands, and fingers to reach upward. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold for a count of five.

Preventing Injuries

Improving your ergonomics will help prevent back injuries from occurring. When lifting things, it is important to use the correct method.

  • Stand close to the object you want to lift.
  • Space your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the knees, not at the waist.
  • As you lift, slowly straighten your knees. Let your legs carry the weight.
  • If something is too big or heavy to safely move yourself, get help or use a dolly.

Driving can aggravate your back pain. Good posture while at the wheel can avoid injury.

  • Adjust the car seat so that your knees are level with your hips.
  • Sit up straight and use a lumbar support or rolled towel for lower back support.

We hope these tips will help you feel better and treat your back pain at home. However, you may need to see a health care provider when your range of motion is limited or you’re in significant pain. If your pain persists, gets worse, or returns after you were getting better, it’s probably time to see your doctor.