August 18, 2023

5 simple ways to prevent back pain

By Sun Life Staff

Suffering from back pain? Here’s 5 tips to help keep your back healthy and pain-free.

At some point in their lives, approximately 80% of Canadians experience back pain. And we’re not just talking about older adults. Chronic lower back pain is a common reason for physician consultations for people under 60 years old.

So, does that mean back pain is inevitable?

In a word, no.

Think of caring for your back the way you care for your teeth. It needs daily, simple attention. Even a few minutes a day is enough to see real relief from back pain.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Stay active throughout the day

Once we get "in the zone" at work, many of us stay seated for hours. Don’t let physical activity take a back seat to emails and meetings. Over time, that inactivity can take a toll on your back.

Remember: humans are built to move. "Movement is medicine," explains Dr. Tam Pham, chiropractor. "And the more you move, the better."

Try simple tweaks to be more active, Pham says. Shifting positions or making time for a light stretch every 20 minutes can really benefit your back.

Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself. Or adopt a modified Pomodoro technique. That’s 20 minutes of work followed by a five-minute rest. This way you can build effective breaks into your work routine. Also, if you have an adjustable-height desk, use it!

2. Be mindful of your posture

Good posture doesn’t mean sitting up perfectly straight all the time. In fact, holding what Dr. Pham calls a "perfect" posture for hours is no better. It can tire your muscles out and lead to temporary aches.

Instead, set up your desk to limit effort and strain. Here’s how:

  • Keep your monitor at eye level and roughly at an arm’s length away.
  • Set your chair at a height that keeps your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Place books or a stool under your feet if they don’t reach the ground with your knees bent.

3. Strengthen your core

Your core muscles form a “corset” that supports your spine. Dr. Pham recommends the following exercises to strengthen your core and fend off back pain:

  • Plank position: place palms on the ground and push yourself up until your torso and legs are in a straight line. Hold. Aim for a minute or more.
  • Hamstring stretch: Sit at the edge of your chair with one leg extended forward and your heel resting on the ground. Bend your knee slightly. Then bend forward at the hip until you feel a stretch in the back of your extended leg. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.

4. Reduce back pain during pregnancy

Back pain is especially common during pregnancy. That’s due to both hormonal changes and the additional weight you’re carrying. That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to prevent or minimize discomfort. The best approach? Dr. Pham advises staying active with pregnancy-friendly exercise like brisk walking, swimming, and stationary cycling.

Pay special attention to your posture if you work at a computer.

Sit all the way back in your chair to support your spine. Try placing a pillow in the small of your back. The constant, soft contact encourages your muscles to relax. This helps stave off soreness.

5. Make preventing back pain part of your daily routine

"Mental awareness is especially important if you’re in pain," Dr. Pham explains. "Addressing your pain or discomfort is key. Your muscles will feel looser and the exercises will become more comfortable." Talk to a health professional if your pain is sharp or gets worse.

Be an ambassador for good back health. Are you feeling self-conscious about doing stretches or posture exercises at your desk? Caring for your spine should be normal, says Dr Pham. You just might set a positive example that benefits the entire office.

Other tips:

  • If you sleep on your back, tuck a pillow under your knees to keep them bent while you sleep. Side-sleeper? Tuck that pillow between your bent knees.
  • Try Yin Yoga to improve your strength and flexibility.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, nor a substitute for that advice.

Sign up for FREE personalized tips, tools and offers.

I understand I can unsubscribe at any time and acknowledge that this email address belongs to me. Learn more about privacy and how we collect data to provide you with more relevant content.

Tools & calculator

Life insurance calculator

Your family is your top priority. Doing the right thing when it comes to their future is important. And that means making sure they have the financial protection they’ll need if one of you dies unexpectedly or becomes seriously ill.

RESP calculator

Use this registered education savings (RESP) calculator to find out how much you need to save and understand how planned savings (including an RESP), government grants and other contributions) can help cover your child(ren)'s post-secondary education costs.

Life expectancy calculator

Use this calculator to estimate how long you might live and to see what you can do to live a longer, healthier life – now and in retirement.

Need financial advice?

Make well-informed decisions with helpful advice. Talk to your advisor or find one near you - there is no cost to talk to an advisor.