I've just had my first experience with low back pain. What can I do to ward off similar problems in the future?

After a first encounter with low back pain, it's important to make sure the muscles that protect your spine are in good condition. Otherwise, you may leave yourself vulnerable to more low back pain.  

Researchers recently tested a program to strengthen patients' back muscles after low back pain. The specific muscles targeted were the multifidus muscles. These muscles lie on the back surface of the spinal column and help steady the vertebrae during movement.

Patients in the study did exercises for these muscles twice a week for a month. One year later, only 30 percent of these patients had more low back pain, versus 84 percent of patients who hadn't done the exercises. Three years later, patients who did the exercises were still a lot less likely to have low back pain.

A little work now could go a long way in protecting your low back. A doctor or physical therapist can suggest ways to train these important muscles to help prevent future problems.