Before we go any further, it is important to seek medical attention if your back pain has any of the following characteristics:
– the pain is worse at night or severe pain wakes you up
– the pain is so severe that it is disabling, and there is no relief after a few days of rest and common pain relievers
– your back pain is following a trauma (fall, car accident)
– Numbness in the upper thigh, groin or buttock
– Abdominal pain accompanied with the back pain
– Tingling or numbness down the leg(s)
Pain in the lower back can become chronic is it is not dealt with and addressed. The earlier you detect and start incorporating pain-relieving techniques, the faster you will feel better. There are a number of techniques, products, exercises and lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference in your lower back pain. Try a combination of the following to help alleviate back pain. If you don’t notice a substantial decrease in pain in 4-6 weeks it is a good idea to follow up with a specialist.
1. Get moving!
Try to keep doing your usual daily activities, just don’t overdue it. Your spine is used to moving, so sitting for prolonged periods of time or resting too much can cause some discomfort. Gentle swimming, and walking are the best activities to try when suffering from back pain. If your job requires you to sit for prolonged periods of time, make an effort to stand hourly to allow your back to move!
2. Strengthen your core
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to alleviate back pain- core strength. Strengthening your inner core gives extra support and stabilization to the spine. These muscles are critical for posture and support the center of the body. Core exercise, such as the plank, can be done at home and will help greatly with lower back pain.
3. Wear low heels
High heeled shoes put an incredible amount of stress on the lower back. Give yourself a break and keep your heels low!
Invest the time and money into purchasing the correct chairs, desks and other tools to improve and encourage proper posture. Those who work at a desk job must make sure they invest in a chair, which has adequate lumbar support and alignment. Desks should be situated so that computer monitors are at the right height and the keyboard isn’t causing a strain on posture.
5. Sleep right
Sleeping in the wrong position can put a lot of unnecessary strain on the lower back. Positioning yourself properly while you sleep is critical for a pain free back. Sleeping on your stomach is not ideal, as it creates poor alignment for your back because your neck has to be turned. If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees to keep the spine aligned. Back sleepers should put a small pillow under their knees. Be sure your mattress is firm
enough and your pillow should be thin. If you find you wake up constantly with a stiff and sore back, think about addressing your sleeping posture.
6. Don’t smoke!
Studies have shown that former smokers have more back pain compared to those who have never smoked. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, which prevents blood flow from going to the small muscles in your back. Quitting smoking could help alleviate back pain.
Muscle tension can cause stress on joints and increased tone can cause pain. Try to get into a habit of stretching daily- the muscles in your legs, and your lower back. A massage therapist can also help alleviate muscle tension and tone.
8. See a specialist
Make an appointment with a physiotherapist or chiropractor to get a specialized plan to help alleviate your back pain. These professionals specialize in alignment, soft tissue and know ways to help you feel better.
9. Try a brace
A SI joint brace is something you can try in the short term to give your spine more support. You should not get reliant on the brace, which is why core exercises and stretching is important. A brace can help give extra stabilization to the lower back while you strengthen the core muscles. You should not wear a brace for more than a few weeks, and it is best to discuss this with a specialist.
Be aware of your posture at all times. Shoulder blades should be pulled together, chin pulled back, your belly button should be pulled towards your spine and your pelvis should be tucked under. Always sit with both feet flat on the floor, make sure your desk chair is the right height, avoid slouching or leaning on objects. Being cognizant of your posture will help maintain and promote proper spine alignment.
Try to incorporate the above tips into your every day life. These ten tips will help get you on your way to alleviating lower back pain and preventing it from reoccurring.
Charlotte Anderson, MSc. PT, PhD