There’s no time like the present to make sure your back is strong enough to handle the load it has to carry every day, whether you’re at work, the gym or on the couch. You need to develop a muscular back brace, so you can prevent pain, and bounce back faster.

Develop Your Core: Abdominal muscles help provide the support, strength and stamina to prevent back injuries. You should do core exercises three days a week. Don’t forget squats and lunges. They put your core on a firmer foundation.

QUIZ: Are You Exercising Enough?

Nine out of 10 rehab specialists prefer Pilates. It emphasizes movement through the use of core muscles closest to the spine. Pilates focuses on performing few, but precise movements. These require control, concentration and proper form. Successful programs integrate traditional Pilates with resistance bands, big balls and balance disks.

Stay Loose: Include yoga, which builds those collateral muscles that protect you from injury. Cardiovascular exercise also helps lower-back pain. It keeps you moving, so you can strengthen the muscles that prevent injury.

Stop Inflammation: When your back gives out—reach for ice. Applying ice for 20 minutes at a time lowers inflammation. After you remove the ice, blood flow increases to take away toxic chemicals from injured tissues. After the first 24 to 48 hours, you can switch to heat. Pads, saunas and heated wraps all help promote blood flow to speed healing.As a heads up, when you use the ice, your back will feel better afterward as it warms up again. When you use heat, your back feels better, but after it tends to stiffen. Only heat your back 20 minutes at a time to avoid overheating the muscles.You can use ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. Some doctors may shoot local anesthetic into the muscles (trigger-point injections) or prescribe a muscle relaxant. These keep the muscles from spasming and feeling tight, without irritating your stomach.You can also lie on the floor, flat on your back, with a small towel under the small of your back, and stretch your back muscles. It takes 15 minutes to realign and stretch your back muscles with this position. You can use this time to meditate. You’ll do your body twice as good. It may be worth trying massage therapy if your back keeps tightening.A cortisone shot in your lower back can reduce pain. It helps reduce inflammation. This could be through the medication or the fact that fluid’s injected.

Move About: If you constantly lie in your bed or on the floor, the pain will get worse. Make sure you’re up moving your muscles and working them into shape. Walking around the house is more healing than sitting around it. Married people recover more slowly than those living alone. If you’re being waited on hand and foot, this may slow down the healing process.Stand TallGood posture promotes strong core muscles. This goes for standing and sitting. You should be aware of your posture when you use exercise equipment too. Correct posture should be practiced with your back against the wall, as well as the top of your buttocks, back and legs. The small of the back should touch the wall. The spine’s naturally curved.Like you’ve heard a million times, pretend a string’s attached to your head, pulling you upward and making you taller. When you’re standing for a while, elevate one foot on a step to help alleviate some pressure.If you’re sitting for a long time, put your feet on a stool, so your knees are higher than your hips, which will decrease the pressure on your lower back discs.You can grab a rolled-up towel, bag of frozen peas or small kid’s ball to place in the small of your back when sitting, for additional lumbar support.

READ MORE: Beauty Benefits of Exercise

Sign Up for Rehab: Work with a specialist who can develop a good program. They focus on muscles upstream from the injury. It’s the weakness in those muscles that leads to the big imbalances. Leg pain can actually originate from back problems. The nerves to the leg and foot traverse the small spaces from the spine in your lower back.Research shows that active exercise seems to be better than passive therapy (spine manipulation and massage). This is particularly effective in reducing symptoms that may prevent you from moving. This movement may prevent recurring injuries.Of course, spine manipulation is better than rest, but inferior to active therapy. Be patient, it takes time to build the surrounding muscles. These muscles aren’t used to being exercised so it may hurt in the beginning. Actively exercising the core muscles that have pain is the fastest way to be pain free. Try it for 20 minutes, three times a week, for 10 weeks.

Bend at the Knees: We often bend at the waist for whatever we drop. But, basic physics would dictate that the 90-degree flex is a whole lot of trouble. This puts the most strain on that “cheese wedge” in your back. The flex is more likely to cause this cheese to crack and ooze out, or a piece to break off and rub against your nerve.Instead, bend at the knees into a squat position, then pick up the object. This is another reason why squats and lunges are great. They keep the leg muscles strong, so you can use good form to pick things up. If you need to, use a pooper-scooper or handy reach-assist tools so you rarely have to bend over.

Roll on a Ball: Put spare tennis balls (one or two) into a sock. Then place the sock under the painful spot in your back and lie on them. This works like an ultra-focused, deep-tissue massage on the area.