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What can you do to stop back pain? Learn some secrets on ways to beat back pain from our PeerWell Health Doctors of Physical Therapy, Britni Keitz and Kaitlynn Muller.

We asked PeerWell’s top physical therapists the answers to your pressing questions about back pain. For each FAQ, both PTs weighed in. Let’s see what they had to say. Flip through the slider for quick answers or scroll down to read in detail.

11 answers to important questions about back pain

Britni Keitz, PT, DPT and Kaitlynn Mueller, PT, DPT answer your back pain questions

Will a standing desk help my back pain?

It could.

Potentially yes!

“However, it also depends on your standing posture and work ergonomic setup. If everything is aligned and you’re aware of your posture while standing at the desk, then yes, absolutely, it can help decrease back pain.” (Britni)

A standing desk can be great for back pain.

“A standing desk can be great. Especially if you have increased pain from poor posture when sitting. If you have a desk job and find yourself hunched over, or you have a lot of mid back pain, a standing desk can help with good upright standing posture. 

If you get a standing desk, be mindful of your posture to avoid pain in other areas. For some people, standing puts pressure on the low back. If you understand where your pain is and what makes it better or worse, you can determine if a standing desk is appropriate for you.” (Kaitlynn)

 

 

Sleep uncomfortable?

Try your side.

It varies from person to person.

It’s a hard question to answer because it varies for everyone. Try lying on your side with a pillow between your legs. This position can typically help alleviate pain.” (Britni)

Test out sleeping on your side.

“The goal is to keep your spine in a neutral position (meaning not bent to one side or the other). Ideally, you would be on your side with one pillow under your head and your knees bent comfortably with a pillow in between them. If this doesn’t work, test out positions to see what works for you personally. If you want more tailored information, you can talk to your physical therapist.” (Kaitlynn)

What are some ways to prevent back pain before it happens?

Get active and walking. 

Moving! An active lifestyle prevents back pain in general.

You don’t have to be going to the gym everyday. An active lifestyle can mean going on walks every day, being aware of your posture throughout the day (especially if you have an office job), just moving around each and every day. Other things you can do are: strengthening, yoga, sports, or pilates. All of these fun activities can also prevent future back pain! (Britni) 

Be mindful of your body mechanics.

Basically, you want to make sure that you are keeping your back in a neutral position when you are standing, lifting, etc. Having a strong core and activating your core when you lift can also help reduce your risk for developing back pain. It’s important to stay active. Doing gentle aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling are all great ways to help stay in shape and keep your back loosened up. 

Is walking good for back pain? What about yoga? Tai chi?

Yes, all of the above!

These are all wonderful. 

All of these can be wonderful for preventing back pain and improving stabilization! (Britni)

Yoga, tai chi and walking are all great for back pain.

All are excellent ways to help reduce back pain. Walking is good because it helps improve your cardiovascular endurance, which helps maintain a healthy BMI and thus relieve excessive pressure on your spine. Yoga is also really good because it can help improve your flexibility and strength. It can help improve core strength which will take pressure off your low back and it will also help improve your flexibility which can reduce pain as well. If you have a favorite activity or exercise, but you aren’t sure if you should do it or not, try it and see if it feels okay. If it increases your pain, then you should not do that activity, but if your pain decreases or is unchanged, try performing that activity gently and see how your back responds. If your pain doesn’t increase, then you are good to go! (Kaitlynn)

Are other muscles important for preventing back pain?

Yes, strong muscles help keep back pain at bay.

All of them! 

It is just not your back, your knee or whatever hurts. It’s the full kinetic chain, our body. Strengthen abdominals, glutes, upper and lower leg muscles, and foot intrinsic muscles. Then, work your way up the kinetic chain to your entire upper body. Basically, every muscle in your body! (Britni)

So many.

There are so many muscles that are important to strengthen if you have back pain. If you have low back pain, one of the most important muscles is your transversus abdominus. This muscle runs horizontally along your lower abdomen and has fibers that wrap around to your low back. This muscle is responsible for supporting and stabilizing your low back. Strengthen your lower body as well, including your glutes and quads. Strengthening these muscles can help you improve your body mechanics and help you avoid lifting with your back and ending up in pain. If you tend to have upper back pain, strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, rhomboids, middle trapezius, and lower trapezius can help improve your posture, thus reducing the stress placed on the mid back. (Kaitlynn) 

Is moving bad if you have back pain?

Yes and no.

It depends on what’s causing your pain.

“Specifically, I want to know what’s causing the back pain. Typically if you have back pain, try to avoid the positions that are causing your back pain until you see your primary physician or physical therapist.” (Britni)

Generally speaking, it is good to stay active – even when your back hurts.

“However, exercises should always be done in a pain-free range. Basically, if an exercise or position hurts, avoid it. To know for sure what you should and should not do, talk to your physical therapist because every injury and every person is different. Your physical therapist can come up with a unique plan of care specifically for you.” (Kaitlynn)

Is pregnancy back pain treatable?

Yes, see a specialist and get into gentle exercises. 

See me!

“I’m a Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, but also work with women who are pregnant as well to help decrease back pain due to postural changes during your pregnancy.” (Britni)

Do a pelvic tilt.

“Back pain is very common with pregnancy. As your baby grows, your center of mass shifts forward causing your lower back to extend. To help with this, try doing a posterior pelvic tilt. This is a gentle exercise to help take pressure off your low back. You can do this by gently rotating your pelvis backward and trying to bring your belly button to your spine. When you’re lifting, always make sure to lift with your legs instead of bending over to pick something up. For quick relief, try lying on your left side with a pillow in between your knees, and your knees bent to a comfortable position. This will help reduce pressure on your spine and give you some relief. If you continue to have back pain, talk to your physical therapist because there are more exercises that he or she can provide.” (Kaitlynn)

Can back pain be treated? How?

Yes, it can.

Moving is key.

“So is seeing a physical therapist that can create a personalized plan for your specific needs to permanently decrease your back pain and prevent future injuries. A heating pad can also help temporarily. ” (Britni)

There are so many ways you can treat your back!

“First and foremost, it is best to see a physical therapist because he or she can help you figure out what positions are best for you versus which ones you should avoid. Your PT gives you the best exercises for your specific problem. Other ways to help reduce pain are: using a heating pad when necessary, having someone massage your back to help reduce muscle tension/soreness, avoiding things or activities that make your symptoms worse, gently strengthening your core (if able), and always making sure to try and keep your spine in a neutral position.” (Kaitlynn)

Can I do anything to avoid pain at work or school?

Yes, you can.

Move often.

“Even if you’ve got an important deadline, be sure to move around. Take breaks to stand up and walk around. You can also make changes to your work station to make them better for your back.” (Britni)

Change your work station and pay attention to posture.

“Make sure you maintain good, upright posture. Your upper back shouldn’t be rounded forward and your head should be in a neutral position. When you’re sitting at your desk, your chair and computer should be an appropriate height. Your computer screen should be at eye level. If you tend to have low back pain while sitting at a desk, you can place a rolled up dish towel in between your low back and the chair to give you some extra support. If you have a job that requires a lot of lifting, always make sure you are lifting with your legs. You should also keep your back in a neutral position. You do not want to bend forward and twist as you’re lifting as that can cause pain.” (Kaitlynn)

 

Does sitting cause back pain?

It absolutely can.

Take movement breaks and do posture checks.

Sitting for too long can cause back pain, especially if you do not have proper posture when you sit. If you tend to sit hunched over with your head forward, this can put a lot of stress on your neck, shoulders, and mid back. To help with this, try sitting up nice and tall. You can do a gentle chin tuck and shoulder blade squeeze to help maintain good posture. If you tend to have low back pain when sitting for too long, it could be because you do not have enough lumbar support. Try using a rolled up dish towel and placing it in between your low back and the chair. This should help reduce your pain. Also, make sure you get up and move frequently to prevent back pain from getting worse.” (Kaitlynn)

 

Are there drug-free ways to treat back pain?

Absolutely. Some take time, but lead to better long-term success.

Physical therapy and mindfulness are both proven ways to reduce back pain. 

“There are so many drug-free ways to treat back pain, but it takes time and is usually not a quick fix. However, if you can stick with these drug-free options, you’re more likely to reduce your back pain long term. Physical therapy and massage are excellent ways to achieve this goal because both will help loosen up tight muscles and joints. Physical therapy will also teach you proper positioning to reduce pain, proper body mechanics to protect your back from future injury, and help you strengthen weak muscles to take pressure off your low back. Acupuncture and mindfulness can also be very beneficial for some individuals as there are alternative ways to help alleviate symptoms. I would strongly recommend talking to a specialist in these fields to truly understand how they can help you achieve your goals. ” (Kaitlynn) 

Have more questions?

We’d love to talk!

Join the thousands getting better with person-first, holistic care.

Your physical therapists

Kaitlynn Mueller

Kaitlynn finished her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of the many reasons Kaitlynn loves physical therapy is that she can design personalized, creative care plans for each patient. No two patients are the same!

Britni Keitz

Born and raised in the small town of Armada, Michigan, she graduated with her Bachelors degree in Science from Central Michigan University and received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from Clarkson University in upstate New York in 2017.  She is certified in Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist.

Will a standing desk help my back pain?

Potentially, yes!

"However, it also depends on your standing posture and work ergonomic setup. If everything is aligned and you’re aware of your posture while standing at the desk, then yes, absolutely, it can help decrease back pain." (Britni)

Standing desks can be great for back pain.

"Especially if you have increased pain from poor posture when sitting. If you have a desk job and find yourself hunched over, or you have a lot of mid back pain, a standing desk can help with good upright standing posture.  If you get a standing desk, be mindful of your posture to avoid pain in other areas. For some people, standing puts pressure on the low back. If you understand where your pain is and what makes it better or worse, you can determine if a standing desk is appropriate for you." (Kaitlynn)  

How can I sleep comfortably with back pain?

sleeping back pain
Try sleeping on your side.

"It’s a hard question to answer because it varies for everyone. Try lying on your side with a pillow between your legs. This position can typically help alleviate pain." (Britni)

Be in a neutral spine position.

"The goal is to keep your spine in a neutral position (meaning not bent to one side or the other). Ideally, you would be on your side with one pillow under your head and your knees bent comfortably with a pillow in between them. If this doesn’t work, test out positions to see what works for you personally. If you want more tailored information, you can talk to your physical therapist." (Kaitlynn) 

How can I prevent back pain?

walk for back pain
Get active and walking.

"Moving! An active lifestyle prevents back pain in general. You don’t have to be going to the gym everyday. An active lifestyle can mean going on walks every day, being aware of your posture throughout the day (especially if you have an office job), just moving around each and every day. Other things you can do are: strengthening, yoga, sports, or pilates. All of these fun activities can also prevent future back pain." "(Britni) 

Be mindful of your body mechanics.

"Basically, you want to make sure that you are keeping your back in a neutral position when you are standing, lifting, etc. Having a strong core and activating your core when you lift can also help reduce your risk for developing back pain. It’s important to stay active. Doing gentle aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling are all great ways to help stay in shape and keep your back loosened up." (Kaitlynn) 

Is walking good for back pain? What about yoga? Tai chi?

Using yoga and walking for back pain
Yes, all of the above!

”These are all wonderful. All of these can be wonderful for preventing back pain and improving stabilization!” (Britni)

Yoga, tai chi and walking are all great for back pain.

”All are excellent ways to help reduce back pain. Walking is good because it helps improve your cardiovascular endurance, which helps maintain a healthy BMI and thus relieve excessive pressure on your spine. Yoga is also really good because it can help improve your flexibility and strength. It can help improve core strength which will take pressure off your low back and it will also help improve your flexibility which can reduce pain as well. If you have a favorite activity or exercise, but you aren’t sure if you should do it or not, try it and see if it feels okay. If it increases your pain, then you should not do that activity, but if your pain decreases or is unchanged, try performing that activity gently and see how your back responds. If your pain doesn’t increase, then you are good to go!” (Kaitlynn)

Are other muscles important for preventing back pain?

Strong muscles for back pain
Yes, strong muscles help keep back pain at bay.

”All of them! It is just not your back, your knee or whatever hurts. It’s the full kinetic chain, our body. Strengthen abdominals, glutes, upper and lower leg muscles, and foot intrinsic muscles. Then, work your way up the kinetic chain to your entire upper body. Basically, every muscle in your body!” (Britni)

So many muscles support your back.

”There are so many muscles that are important to strengthen if you have back pain. If you have low back pain, one of the most important muscles is your transversus abdominus. This muscle runs horizontally along your lower abdomen and has fibers that wrap around to your low back. This muscle is responsible for supporting and stabilizing your low back. Strengthen your lower body as well, including your glutes and quads. Strengthening these muscles can help you improve your body mechanics and help you avoid lifting with your back and ending up in pain. If you tend to have upper back pain, strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, rhomboids, middle trapezius, and lower trapezius can help improve your posture, thus reducing the stress placed on the mid back.” (Kaitlynn) 

Is moving bad if you have back pain?

Is moving bad for back pain? Runner prepares
Yes and no.

“It depends on what's causing your pain. Specifically, I want to know what’s causing the back pain. Typically if you have back pain, try to avoid the positions that are causing your back pain until you see your primary physician or physical therapist." (Britni)

Generally speaking, it is good to stay active – even when your back hurts.

"However, exercises should always be done in a pain-free range. Basically, if an exercise or position hurts, avoid it. To know for sure what you should and should not do, talk to your physical therapist because every injury and every person is different. Your physical therapist can come up with a unique plan of care specifically for you." (Kaitlynn)

How can I treat pregnancy back pain?

Pregnant woman sitting with back pain
See a specialist and get into gentle exercises. 

“See me! I’m a Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, but also work with women who are pregnant as well to help decrease back pain due to postural changes during your pregnancy." (Britni)

Do pelvic tilts.

”Back pain is very common with pregnancy. As your baby grows, your center of mass shifts forward causing your lower back to extend. To help with this, try doing a posterior pelvic tilt. This is a gentle exercise to help take pressure off your low back. You can do this by gently rotating your pelvis backward and trying to bring your belly button to your spine. When you’re lifting, always make sure to lift with your legs instead of bending over to pick something up. For quick relief, try lying on your left side with a pillow in between your knees, and your knees bent to a comfortable position. This will help reduce pressure on your spine and give you some relief. If you continue to have back pain, talk to your physical therapist because there are more exercises that he or she can provide." (Kaitlynn)

Can back pain be treated? How?

women stretching for back pain
Yes, it can.

“Moving is key. So is seeing a physical therapist that can create a personalized plan for your specific needs to permanently decrease your back pain and prevent future injuries. A heating pad can also help temporarily. " (Britni)

There are so many ways you can treat your back!

”First and foremost, it is best to see a physical therapist because he or she can help you figure out what positions are best for you versus which ones you should avoid. Your PT gives you the best exercises for your specific problem. Other ways to help reduce pain are: using a heating pad when necessary, having someone massage your back to help reduce muscle tension/soreness, avoiding things or activities that make your symptoms worse, gently strengthening your core (if able), and always making sure to try and keep your spine in a neutral position." (Kaitlynn)

Can I do anything to avoid back pain at work or school?

working and avoiding back pain
Yes, you can.

”Move often. Even if you've got an important deadline, be sure to move around. Take breaks to stand up and walk around. You can also make changes to your work station to make them better for your back." (Britni)

Change your work station and pay attention to posture.

”Make sure you maintain good, upright posture. Your upper back shouldn’t be rounded forward and your head should be in a neutral position. When you’re sitting at your desk, your chair and computer should be an appropriate height. Your computer screen should be at eye level. If you tend to have low back pain while sitting at a desk, you can place a rolled up dish towel in between your low back and the chair to give you some extra support. If you have a job that requires a lot of lifting, always make sure you are lifting with your legs. You should also keep your back in a neutral position. You do not want to bend forward and twist as you’re lifting as that can cause pain." (Kaitlynn)

Can sitting cause back pain?

sitting cause back pain
It absolutely can. Take movement breaks and do posture checks.

“Sitting for too long can cause back pain, especially if you do not have proper posture when you sit. If you tend to sit hunched over with your head forward, this can put a lot of stress on your neck, shoulders, and mid back. To help with this, try sitting up nice and tall. You can do a gentle chin tuck and shoulder blade squeeze to help maintain good posture. If you tend to have low back pain when sitting for too long, it could be because you do not have enough lumbar support. Try using a rolled up dish towel and placing it in between your low back and the chair. This should help reduce your pain. Also, make sure you get up and move frequently to prevent back pain from getting worse." (Kaitlynn)

 

Are there drug-free ways to treat back pain?

meditation for back pain
Absolutely. Some take time, but lead to better long-term success. Physical therapy and mindfulness are both proven ways to reduce back pain. 

“There are so many drug-free ways to treat back pain, but it takes time and is usually not a quick fix. However, if you can stick with these drug-free options, you’re more likely to reduce your back pain long term. Physical therapy and massage are excellent ways to achieve this goal because both will help loosen up tight muscles and joints. Physical therapy will also teach you proper positioning to reduce pain, proper body mechanics to protect your back from future injury, and help you strengthen weak muscles to take pressure off your low back. Acupuncture and mindfulness can also be very beneficial for some individuals as there are alternative ways to help alleviate symptoms. I would strongly recommend talking to a specialist in these fields to truly understand how they can help you achieve your goals. " (Kaitlynn) 

Want to beat your back pain?

Join the thousands taking care of themselves with a holistic, patient-first approach.

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