Do You Have Back Problems?


back-painHave you ever had lower back pain?

I bet the answer is yes!

According to the National Institute of Health nearly everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life! Americans spend 50 billion dollars on low back pain (Wow! That’s a big number) and it’s the leading cause of missed work. No doubt about it, low back pain is a bummer!

In the past, I experienced my back “going out”– bending down in the shower to pick up the soap, everything seized up! Or I might pick up something heavy without using my legs, and boom, my back would seize up. That might happen periodically, and would release in a couple of days. Indeed, that kind of back spasm will get better no matter what you do. It just has to release. Staying in bed doesn’t make any difference—Ibuprofen and time help.

About ten years ago, I had my first episode of lower back pain. This was different. I had a dull aching pain in my lower back, like a tight fist, that hurt like heck, no matter what position I was in. It was hard to get comfortable, even on my back, with my legs on a pillow to take the pressure off of my low back. And, it lasted a lot longer than my back spasm. It wasn’t precipitated by anything I had just done.

My first reaction – “Why me?”

My second thought – “Why not me?”

For many of us, lower back pain comes from our post-industrial lifestyle – overweight, lack of exercise, sedentary work, poor posture, and stress. These are the five big factors that cause much of our lower back misery. As we age, our muscles, particularly the muscles around our mid-section (called “core” muscles) weaken and lose their elasticity. Most adults aren’t doing sit-ups like we did in high school gym class.

In my case, I decided the culprit was sitting on my rear all day long at work. I also had our occupational health officer come to our office and evaluate our chairs and work stations. All of our chairs were 15 years old and had to be replaced! I chose high end ones with multiple ways of adjusting them for maximum support and comfort. I arranged to raise my desk up so that I could stand or sit when I was working at my computer. That made a huge difference!

I also felt that stress was a factor too. My back seemed to get tight when I was anxious, worried, or felt like I had too much on my plate (Of course, no one else ever feels that way!). It might be easier to change your workstation than it is to banish stress. But it is important to consider how to handle stress more effectively. It’s a big contributing cause for lower back pain!

It’s very helpful to work on stretching and strengthening core muscles. I started doing back and abdominal work three times a week. I combined stretching with strengthening and adopted a variety of yoga and physical therapy exercises. Wow! They really helped. Here is a site that is worth checking out–

In addition, all health care professionals who treat lower back pain agree on one universal balm—walking. It’s the best exercise for folks with (or without) low back pain. Walking is gentle, natural, and non stressful. Its low impact, good for your core muscles, improves posture, and yes, it’s free! And guess what, it help reduce stress too!

Start small. Walk for 15 minutes, three times a week and slowly but surely add time. Pretty soon, you will build up to 30-45 minutes. It’s all good. Give it a try.

Take a look at a video on back pain by fellow Everett Clinic provider Cheryl LaFlore, ARNP.

What about you? How have you managed low back pain?


  1. MLT

    I’ve had good success with yoga for prevention.

  2. Anonymous

    Planking to strengthen your abdominal core is huge. Helped me out a lot!

  3. Anonymous

    For the past month I’ve been working on getting my muscle spasms to stop and prevent my back from “going out.” Just recently I’ve been noticing that when I’m stressed it worsens, and it’s less of a problem when I take the time to be calm and relax more. Nice to know this is true and not just my imagination. lol