Stretching and strengthening exercises that target both your back muscles and abdominal muscles not only will help treat any existing low back pain; they will also help prevent a recurrence of the problem. (On my website, AskDoctorK.com, I've put descriptions and illustrations of several back-strengthening exercises.) Stop the exercises if you experience any pain.
• Hold on to good habits. During your episode of low back pain, you may have found yourself instinctively moving more cautiously: bending your knees when picking something up, carrying objects close to your body to minimize leverage on your back, and sitting down and getting up more carefully. Try to turn these back-saving maneuvers into lifelong habits. Practices such as these can help keep your back injury-free.
Fortunately, I've had only one episode of low back pain in my life, but it really knocked me out of action. I was fairly young and feeling invincible. I wasn't exercising regularly at the time, and I never did any stretching exercises. One day I picked up a heavy object and carried it way out in front of my body, instead of holding it against my body. Pow! Never again: I learned an ergonomic lesson.
Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.