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Health Chatter: Preventing back pain

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Back pain affects millions of adults in UK each year and is the leading cause of disability. Most people will experience back pain at some point, but most episodes last for a short period of time and resolve after a few days or weeks without medical intervention.

As always however, it is better to avoid back pain occurring in the first place because even a few days or weeks of pain can be very uncomfortable. Unless there are underlying causes, the risk of developing back pain can be reduced by taking care of your spine and paying attention to your posture.


Slouching in your chair might not feel uncomfortable in the moment, but this poor posture can cause your spine to become misaligned. Over time, with repeated poor posture, this misalignment can cause the nerves and blood vessels in your spine to become constricted resulting in back pain. This is the same for any poor posture – be it seated or standing.

A man sitting at a desk, with his hand on his back, suffering from back pain.
Back pain can be reduced by taking care of your spine and paying attention to your posture.

To ensure your spine stays aligned, follow these steps:

When sitting

  • Keep your back against the back rest of the chair so your shoulders sit in line with your hips.

  • Imagine a piece of string pulling you up from the top of your head, pulling it into alignment between your shoulders so you’re not hunched forward.

  • If you are seated at a desk, your elbows should rest comfortably by your sides, and be bent at approximately 90 degrees (right angle), with your forearms parallel to the floor.

  • The chair should support your thighs with your knees level with your hips, and your feet flat on the floor. You may need a footrest if your feet don’t comfortably rest flat on the floor.

  • Your eye-line should fall in the top 1/3 of your screen to avoid straining your neck up or down. If you don’t have access to a screen riser straight away, try raising your screen by resting it on something solid such as a ream of paper or large book.

When lifting

  • Never try to carry loads that are too heavy for you. If it hurts or you are struggling, get someone else to help you or use an appropriate tool to help you.

  • Stand directly in front of the load you wish to carry.

  • Bend your knees whilst keeping your back straight and chest forward.

  • Grab the load from the bottom with both hands so it is secure in your grip and push up with your legs to a standing position, keeping your back straight and holding the load close to your body.

  • It’s important not to bend your lower back to pick up a load because this puts strain on the area and is likely to cause pain.

When standing

  • Imagine a straight line that runs from the top of your head, down between your shoulders and hips, to the floor between your feet. Make sure your head, shoulders and hips are all aligned with this imaginary line and ‘lift’ your body up it, standing tall with feet planted firmly and evenly on the floor.

  • Maintain this ‘tall’ feeling when you walk, making sure to roll from your heel to your toes with each step.

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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