Lower back pain plagues individuals from youth to the elderly. Its causes are numerous and range from occasionally moving incorrectly and straining the back to chronic pain based on poor posture, weak muscles or an injury from long ago.
The National Athletic Trainers Association suggests mobilizing yourself. Sitting for hours at a time with poor posture strains the back and makes muscles stiffen. Try to break up your sedentary positions by stretching and walking around regularly, and try to add relaxing workouts such as yoga, pilates, or swimming to keep you limber with easy movement. Do this every day, and always warm up before physical activity with stretches and a few minutes of cardio work, which increases muscle mobility and decreases the chances of hurting your back.
The American Academy of Physicians describes the perfect position for relief from a sore back. Lie on the floor with pillows under your knees, feet and calves resting on a chair or feet on the floor with knees bent. This position will take all of the weight off of your back.
Heating pads can also be a help, along with ice packs and massages, depending on the tenderness of the muscles.
UK publication Family Health Media recommends hot showers with the water stream directed at the sore area. This helps to relax the muscles. Bed rest for back pain should never exceed two days.
The most important part of treating lower back pain is not to merely relieve the pain and relax the muscle, but to treat the cause of the pain. Much of back pain is caused by poor posture, unbalanced movements, wearing high heels and being overweight. Making changes in those areas will help alleviate the pain you suffer.
For posture, when sitting at a desk, your feet should be flat on the floor with knees level with hips or slightly higher, according to The Mayo Clinic. Sit with your back against the chair, with a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back for support as needed. Keep your shoulders relaxed, not rounded, shrugged or pulled backward. Try to keep your upper back and neck straight to reduce stress on those areas.
For standing, particularly if standing for long periods of time, The Mayo Clinic recommends shifting your weight from foot to foot as needed, and putting one leg up on a step in front of you whenever possible. For example, when waiting in line at the grocery store, put one foot up onto the bottom rung of the shopping cart. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, your abdominals tightened, and your rear tucked under. But don’t lock your knees, or you’ll start to feel faint. Try not to tilt your head forward or to the side, as that will strain your neck.
Keep the following from the American Academy of Physicians in mind while lifting and moving things: don’t lift objects by bending over. Instead, bend your knees and squat to pick up the object, and keep your back straight, avoiding twisting while lifting. Push rather than pull heavy objects. Be aware of your body. If you feel twinges of back pain while moving or doing an activity, see your chiropractor.
Wearing high heels is a chronic cause of lower back pain. It increases the natural arch in the spine, and puts pressure on the muscles arround it that can cause regular pain.
One of the most common causes of back pain is being overweight, which puts strain on the lower back. This is probably the hardest cause to combat, since lifestyle choices need to be addressed to combat excess weight.
Strengthen core muscles to take pressure off of the back muscles. Ricky Lim, in his article Lower Back Pain Exercises, describes several basic exercises for beginning to combat lower back pain:
- Lie on your back with your hands placed under your rear, neck and shoulders lifted off the ground, and pump your ankles up and down.
- In the same position, slowly bend and straighten your knees, together or one at a time.
- Also on the floor in the same position, bend one knee and place the foot flat on the floor. Slowly raise other leg, keeping it straight, as high as you can, and then lay it back down on the floor.
- Stand against a wall and lower the body into a sitting position – back against the wall and knees bent at a 45 degree angle, tightening your abdominal muscles
- Stand with a hand on a chair or against a wall and raise up on your tip toes.
- On the floor, lie down on your back and then slowly lift one knee, using your arms to pull it in to your chest. Switch legs.
For specific activities that don’t put too much pressure on your back, try walking, riding a stationary bike, swimming or yoga. All of those options will stretch your back muscles while not straining the lower back area.
Consulting a chiropractor is always the best thing to do for the onset of back pain. Read on for some tips and habits that can help reduce lower back pain.