Relieve your back pain with these simple daily habits.

Everyday tips for a happier back.

With advice from Dr. Cynthia E. Collins.

Cynthia E. Collins, MD

MDLIVE Medical Director Cynthia E. Collins, MD, is board certified and specializes in family medicine, weight loss, and health and wellness. A member of the American Academy of Family Medicine and Obesity Medicine Association, Dr. Collins is knowledgeable in holistic medical care for all ages.

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Ever feel a sudden twinge in your back or a persistent ache that just won’t quit? No matter your age, back pain can sneak in and throw a wrench in your routine. And it’s more common than you may think, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives.1 But with some simple changes to your everyday routine, you can reduce your pain and protect your back from future injuries. Here’s what Dr. Collins recommends.

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10 dos and don’ts to protect your back during everyday activities:

Your morning routine.


DO: Stretch after you get out of bed to warm up your body and increase blood flow before jumping into your day.

Don't over-load

DON’T: Over-pack your bag. What you carry throughout the day in your backpack, purse, or wallet can strain your back. Switch the load-bearing side frequently.



DO: Make sure your chair has firm lower back support and your knees are a bit higher than your hips with your feet on the floor if you have to sit most of the day.


DON’T: Stay in the same position all day. Move around every 45 minutes by walking or doing simple stretches to get your blood flowing and relieve stiffness.


proper form

DO: Use proper form, keep your back in a neutral position, and engage your core to protect your back.


DON’T: Overdo it. Slowly increase resistance only if you can keep proper form – especially for strenuous exercises like squats, deadlifts, and HIIT.

Your diet.

calcium-rich foods

DO: Eat more calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, and leafy greens, and vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish and egg yolks to help keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis – one of the most common causes of back pain later in life.

inflammatory foods

DON’T: Eat inflammatory foods. A major cause of pain is inflammation, so eating these foods may worsen your pain and prolong recovery.2

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sleep position

DO: Place a pillow under your knees to elevate your legs and relieve pressure on your back. If you sleep on your side, bend your legs slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your knees to help align your spine, hips, and pelvis.

Don't sleep on your stomach

DON’T: Sleep on your stomach – which can be especially hard on your back. If you can’t sleep any other way, place a pillow under your hips to reduce back strain.

Need relief fast?

Prevention is the key to reducing back pain long-term – but when your pain is getting in the way of your daily routine and you need relief, here are a few home remedies that can help short-term:

Home remedies
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Topical pain-relieving creams, rubs, or sprays.

  • Icing the affected area for the first 2-3 days after injury to help minimize swelling and numb the pain.

  • Using a heating pad after 2-3 days to increase blood flow and lessen stiffness.

While resting is okay for the first day or two after a back injury, lying still for long periods can worsen back pain and lead to other complications. Get back up and start slow with low-impact movement like walking, swimming, or yoga.

– Dr. Collins

When to see a doctor.

If you have unrelenting pain, a history of major trauma, loss of bladder or bowel function, or pain accompanied by numbness, weakness, or fever, talk to a doctor. You can see an MDLIVE board-certified doctor in just minutes who can treat your back pain and help you feel better faster – all from the comfort of home.

Posted date: February 12, 2024

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