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Back pain often develops without a cause that shows up in a test or imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:

  • Muscle or ligament strain.
  • Bulging or ruptured disks.
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis


Risk factors

Anyone can develop back pain, even children and teens

  • Age. Back pain is  starting around age 30 or 40.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess weight
  • Diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can contribute to back pain.
  • Improper lifting
  • Psychological conditions. People prone to depression and anxiety appear to have a greater risk of back pain. Stress can cause muscle tension, which can contribute to back pain.
  • Smoking



Improving one's physical condition and learning and practicing how to use the body might help prevent back pain.

To keep the back healthy and strong:

  • Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities . Walking, bicycling and swimming are good choices.
  • Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises, which strengthen the core, help condition these muscles so that they work together to support the back.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking


Avoid movements that twist or strain the back. To use the body properly:

  • Stand smart. Don't slouch. Maintain a neutral pelvic position. When standing for long periods, place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the load off the lower back. Alternate feet. Good posture can reduce the stress on back muscles.
  • Sit smart. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests and a swivel base. Placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of the back can maintain its normal curve. Keep knees and hips level. Change position frequently, at least every half-hour.
  • Lift smart. Avoid heavy lifting, if possible. If you must lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight — no twisting — and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.


Buyer beware

Because back pain is common, many products promise prevention or relief. But there's no good evidence that special shoes, shoe inserts, back supports or specially designed furniture can help.

In addition, there doesn't appear to be one type of mattress that's best for people with back pain. It's probably a matter of what feels most comfortable.