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Body Mechanics

Topic Overview

Good body mechanics means practicing good posture throughout the day. Use good body mechanics all the time, not just when you have back pain.

  • Keep your back in the neutral position—not too curved and not too flat.
  • When you must stay in one position for long periods of time, take regular breaks to stretch and restore the neutral position of your back.
  • When lifting, lift with your legs, not your back. See a picture of proper lifting techniques.

Slumping or slouching alone may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. "Good posture" generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back.

Standing or walking tips

  • Keep your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle in a line.
  • Avoid locking your knees while standing. Place one foot on a low stool if you must stand in one position for a long time. Alternate feet.

Sitting tips

  • Use proper sitting posture in your work environment. Sit with your back supported, feet flat on the floor, and shoulders relaxed. See a picture of proper sitting posture.
  • Avoid sitting in one position for more than an hour at a time. Get up or change positions often.
  • If you must sit a lot, make it a priority to do stretching exercises.
  • If your chair doesn't give enough support, use a small pillow or rolled towel to support your lower back.
  • To rise from a chair, keep your back in the neutral position and scoot forward to the edge of the chair. Use your leg muscles to stand up without leaning forward at the waist.
  • For driving, pull your seat forward so that the pedals and steering wheel are within comfortable reach. Stop often to stretch and walk around.

If you think that your back problems are related to your workspace, talk to your employer about having your workstation evaluated. You may be able to reduce your chances of back problems and be more comfortable and efficient by setting up your workspace and work tools for your own personal needs.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised May 23, 2013

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