Worst Mistakes to Make With Low Back Pain

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

When you live with low back pain, it’s easy to add to your pain without realizing you are doing so. Keep reading for common mistakes people with low back pain often make and what you can do instead.

Man putting firewood in basket.

Don’t continue with BLT activities

B is for bending, L is for lifting, and T is for twisting. Activities that require these motions are likely to cause your back pain to flare or worsen. Some common BLT activities include golfing and weeding.

Do avoid exercising for four to six weeks after acute back pain to reduce swelling, according to a study completed in 2016. If you aren’t having acute pain, exercises to build muscular strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness may help decrease your low back pain.

Man wearing flip flops.

Don’t continue wearing bad shoes

Your shoes provide support for your entire body, including your spine. High-heel shoes or flip-flops do not give your back support and may be contributing to your pain.

Do select shoes that don’t affect your posture. Look for low or flat heels to alleviate stress on your lower back, according to the University of Washington. Cushion-soled shoes that provide shock absorbency may improve back pain.

Unmade bed with blue sheets and old mattress.

Don’t continue sleeping on the same old mattress

Old mattresses have lost some of their firmness, tend not to support your curves well, and lack some of the newer technology. Your old mattress might be causing or adding to your low back pain.

Do look for a mattress that is comfortable and supportive. One that keeps the spine aligned will relieve pressure points and help prevent or alleviate back pain, according to SleepHelp.org. Medium firmness mattresses with a top layer of foam that is at least three inches thick are often best. Some people with back pain use adjustable frames, where you can lower or raise your head and feet to help reduce back pain.

Man putting on jeans.

Don’t continue standing when putting on pants

Putting on pants while standing requires bending and possibly twisting, not to mention hopping on one leg. All of these motions can increase your low back pain.

Do sit down to put on pants. You can raise your legs rather than bending your spine. Hopping or jumping can compress your lumbar spine and increase your pain.

Young woman reaching in store shelf.

Don’t continue reaching

Every time you reach, you place stress on your spine — even a short-distance reach.

Do use your feet and walk to whatever item you need. Walk to get as close to the item as possible and use a step stool to reach items that are overhead, according to the Mayfield Clinic.

Woman talking on phone dropping groceries from ripped bag.

Don’t continue a fast-paced life

Overburdening your schedule or being constantly on the go can put a strain on your body. A fast pace means that your movements may be sloppy which can cause additional injury. A fast pace is just not sustainable if you have low back pain.

Do adjust your daily routine, according to the Mayfield Clinic. Slowing down so you can maintain the normal curvature of your spine will decrease your healing time.

Selection of various pasta and breads.

Don’t continue eating carbohydrates and sugar

At the root of most low back pain is inflammation. Foods that cause your blood sugar to spike will only make the pain worse because sugar promotes inflammation.

Do eat a healthy diet. Processed sugars can trigger inflammatory messengers, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Foods such as tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and berries can help fight inflammation, according to Harvard Medical School.

Three women exercising and walking a dog in a park.

Don’t avoid exercise and movement

Staying inactive is a mistake if you have low back pain. Inactivity makes your low back pain worse. The muscles in your abdomen and buttocks need to stay strong in order to support your spine.

Do participate in an aerobic exercise program, suggests the University of Washington. Ideally, the program should be led by a trained instructor and include a warm-up period, 30 minutes of aerobic activity, isolated muscle group work, and a cool-down period.

Doctor looking at x-ray images of the spine.

Don’t ignore warning signs

Certain signs are red flags that mean that something is seriously wrong with your spine and that you need to seek medical attention soon. Sudden urinary incontinence is one such warning sign. Progressive leg weakness is another.

Do pay attention to symptoms such as pain that runs down the leg, numbness, fever, weakness or sweating, increasing pain or a history of cancer, according to the American College of Physicians. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor immediately.

Man smoking a cigarette.

Don’t continue smoking

Smoking tobacco products is the worst mistake to make because it greatly impairs your body’s ability to heal and stay strong.

Do quit if you smoke. Nicotine may provide short-term relief from pain but may worsen your pain over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Smoking decreases the blood flow, which can cause degeneration, particularly in the spine.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.