A Brief Guide to Managing Your Back Pain
Back Pain Remedies
Numb it. After activity-related discomfort, ice acts as a local anesthetic by numbing the tissue, and reduces inflammation, which usually is a factor in low back pain. Make your own ice pack by freezing dish soap in a plastic bag, or freeze water in a paper cup and get an ice massage.
Warm it up. Heat helps blood circulate in the affected area of the low back, and blood brings healing nutrients. Some prefer moist heat – a hot bath or other form of moist heat.
Keep it warm. Some people feel more pain relief with continuous, low level heat, which is available with commercial heat wraps (e.g. ThermaCare, and ACE).
Combine acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These have different mechanisms of action, and when combined, are more effective than either one alone. I like to stagger the doses (take ibuprofen, then 2 – 3 hours later acetaminophen).
Use your brain. Employ powerful relaxation and distraction techniques in order to make your brain ignore at least some of the pain signals it receives and help you feel more in control of your situation.
Get a massage. Nothing helps like a good back massage to loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing. See Massage Therapy
Get continuous sleep. Lack of deep, restorative sleep makes the pain worse, and pain makes it hard to sleep. If you need it, get professional help for sleep aids. See Sleep
Treat your emotions. Depression and chronic back pain go hand in hand and each makes the other worse. Get professional help for the depression too.
Stop smoking. It causes back pain. See Smoking and Pain
Avoid alcohol. It is a depressant and interrupts sleep cycles.
Check your gene pool. A lot of back pain runs in families, so if back pain runs in your family take extra care of your back.
Connect with others. Pain is lonely. Most people feel better when they can connect and share with others who are experiencing similar challenges. See Links
Stretch your hammies. Tight hamstring muscles put stress on the lower back. Stretch them every morning and evening.
Stay active. Don’t rest for more than a day or two when back pain is at its worst. Prolonged inactivity makes the pain worse. See Community Involvement
Walk as much as possible. Carry a pedometer to know you’re walking 10,000 steps a day. A treadmill has less impact on the spine than walking on a sidewalk. See Community Group Exercise
Try an elliptical trainer. The tracks never touch the ground, so there is almost no impact on the spine.
Biking is good too. For people who feel better leaning forward, try an upright exercise bike. For those who feel better reclining, try a recumbent bike (with a lumbar back support)
Water therapy is gentle. The water provides buoyancy and mild resistance, but no impact or stress on the back. See Swimming and Water Aerobics
Strengthen your core. Abdominal and back muscles need to be specifically targeted with strengthening exercise in order to support the spine. See Core Stability
Try a strengthening program. McKenzie therapy, Dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises, and most forms of exercise ball programs, tai chi, pilates, and yoga all focus on strengthening the core trunk muscles. See Yoga or Yoga Studios in Denton
Posture and ergonomics
Look at your chair. If you’re reading this, chances are you spend a reasonable amount of time at your computer. Make sure the back of the chair supports the inward curve of your lower back, your chest is open, arms on armrests, upper back is straight and your feet are flat on the floor. See Ergonomics
Use a lumbar support (or rolled towel) for your office chair and car.
Don’t slouch. Ever. It stresses the back. See Core Stability
Replace your office chair with an exercise ball. Sitting on the ball introduces an element of instability, and over time the muscles used to balance on the ball become stronger.
Pivot with your feet. Don’t twist while lifting. Instead, pivet with your feet to keep your low back from twisting.
Use pillows. Support your spine while sleeping by using pillows to reduce stress. One very supportive position is to lie on your side in the fetal position with a pillow between your knees.
Avoid standing. At least for long periods of time. If you have to, make sure one leg is resting on a step or something a few inches off the ground, and switch feet every few minutes.
Push. If you have to move a heavy object, always push – don’t pull.
Get household help. Have someone else vacuum, load and unload the dishwasher, lift grocery bags and other household chores that require bending and place stress the low back. You can chip in with the chores that don’t stress your back.