They say that only two things in life are certain – death and taxes – but it might be time to add lower back pain to the list. More than 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and lower back pain is one of the top reasons for missed work days each year. Lower back pain can be caused by an acute injury, such as a herniated disc, or the wear and tear caused by aging, overuse, and physical activity. Even though the vast majority of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, it’s possible to help with pain relief to reduce lower back pain and prevent it from recurring and are hopefully able to avoid having to see a physical therapist or other health care professional.
Strengthen Your Core
As the saying goes, strong abdominal muscles means a strong back, so strengthening the muscles of your core is one of the best places to start if you’re looking to reduce lower back pain. When you have a weak core, your bones and cartilage in your upper and lower spine are subject to more wear and tear because the core muscles are unable to keep the spine properly suspended. Your core is made up of your abdominals, lower back muscles, your glutes, and the muscles in your pelvic floor, and having a strong core can help make your movements more efficient, prevent overuse injuries, and of course, reduce chronic back pain. As it turns out, dancing is a great aerobic exercise for core strengthening, and there are many low impact dance videos that won’t exacerbate your back pain.
Practice Good Posture
We all know what good posture is, but very few of us actually practice it on a day to day basis, and it is wreaking havoc on our backs. With many people sitting during the majority of the workday, poor posture while sitting at work is a common cause of lower back pain. Maintaining correct posture while sitting (keeping your feet flat on the floor and using a chair that provides support for your lower back, as well as keeping your shoulders back and spine tall) can help to reduce lower back pain. However, you’ll need good posture when you’re performing physical activities, too, especially if you’re playing sports or doing activities that are high impact.
Rotate Ice and Heat
Nothing feels better than a heating pad on an achy back, but heating pads can actually do more harm than good. Heat increases inflammation, so even though it helps to relax the muscles, it will ultimately make your pain worse. It’s best to use ice pack or cold pack on your back for the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury to help reduce inflammation. After that time, you can rotate between ice and heat, using one for 20 minutes at a time and then switching to the other. This will prevent inflammation from getting worse while also helping to relax your muscles and reduce pain. You should try this method first before using a back pain treatment like pain reliever like over-the-counter acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which can have side effects.
We often think that the best thing to do for back pain is to be on bed rest, but in fact, it’s usually counterproductive except in extreme cases. Our spines were made to move, and moving can actually be a relaxation technique that can relax your muscles and help your spine heal in the short term. Don’t go crazy – getting up for shorts walks down the block is sufficient when you’re in chronic pain – but don’t let yourself get sedentary. Stick to low impact activities while you are recovering from back pain, including swimming, walking, and cycling – whatever you enjoy that helps keep you active!
Watch Your Weight
It seems that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the common tips for nearly every medical condition, but it’s especially important if you’re trying to reduce chronic lower back pain. Your spine is responsible for supporting your entire frame, and carrying extra weight around can speed up the process of disc degeneration and worsen other back issues. Being overweight increases the strain on the low back even more as we get older, so make sure to maintain a healthy body weight.
Check Your Mattress
Have you checked your mattress lately? If you are suffering from chronic low back pain, you need to. Using an old mattress (more than ten years old) means you might not be receiving adequate support, and mattresses should be rotated frequently to ensure that they don’t get worn down in any one area. Also, make sure you’re sleeping on the right type of mattress. Most people with lower back pain and poor spine-health benefit from sleeping on a mattress that is somewhere between medium and firm, but it also depends on your sleep position. If you prefer to sleep on your side, a softer mattress is more appropriate, but people who prefer to sleep on their backs and stomachs should get a firmer mattress. However, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your stomach entirely if you suffer from lower back pain.
People who suffer from lower back pain often suffer from tight muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, and spine. Stretching regularly is important in order to keep your muscles from getting too tight, and it can also help with back pain relief both chronic and acute lower back pain. If you’re not sure where to start, try a gentle yoga video that will guide you through a series of stretches designed to alleviate pain and improve flexibility.
Much like losing weight, quitting smoking is another common remedy for many health conditions. It might not seem like smoking and lower back pain are linked, but smoking has been shown to increase the risk of osteoporosis and other bone problems in the spine. Smokers have also been found to have more lower back pain than nonsmokers, so it’s best to quit if you’re hoping to reduce lower back pain.
Ditch the Heels and Flip Flops
Wearing proper footwear is key for both men and women who have lower back pain, as shoes like flip flops and high heels don’t provide enough support and it is an example of lifestyle changes you can make. It’s fine to wear these shoes occasionally, but if you have lower back pain, they’re likely to exacerbate the problem when worn regularly. Always wear the appropriate footwear for the activity you’re doing.