Millions of adults suffer from acute and chronic low back pain every year, and if left untreated, the problem can linger for months on end. Conventional medicine treats low back pain (LBP) with muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain medications, but drugs do not get to the underlying cause of LBP, and they may even cause dangerous addictions. Take charge of your own health to get to the root of your low back pain with these 10 simple and effective strategies.
Types and Causes of Low Back Pain
The lower back region, sometimes referred to as the lumbopelvic region, houses numerous structures that, when injured, can manifest as low back pain. Nerves, muscles, connective tissues, joints and vital organs can all contribute to low back pain.
The most common types of LBP and their causes include:
Acute LBP. Sudden back pain may occur during physical activities like sports or exercise, or from lifting heavy objects like a toddler or a bag of dog food. In many cases, failure to properly engage the core muscles prior to lifting puts excess load on muscles, joints and connective tissues, and can impact nerves. Acute back pain usually heals itself over time.
Chronic LBP. Chronic back pain is persistent. It often has a gradual onset, and may hurt more on some days than others.
Common causes of chronic LBP include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Repetitive overuse from sports or exercise
- Repetitive overuse from occupation
- Poor posture
- Excessive sitting
- Being out of shape
- Poor gait mechanics
- Old injuries anywhere along the kinetic chain that have not been rehabilitated
Sciatica. Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body, traveling from your lower vertebrae down the back of your legs, all the way to your feet. The sciatic nerve can become impinged or entrapped anywhere along its path, causing pain that often manifests itself in your lower back. It can become irritated by too much sitting, driving, or being sedentary and overweight.
Strategies for Low Back Pain Relief
There are a number of simple strategies you can use to relieve your low back pain and even eliminate it for good. Here are 10 of the best.
- Icing. Ice is an inexpensive, safe and effective treatment for any type of pain, and it is standard first aid treatment for soft tissue injuries. It works by reducing inflammation and desensitizing nerve endings. If your back pain is caused by an inflamed (herniated) disc, icing can quickly get rid of your back pain in a day or two. It is also a first line treatment for acute LBP. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin towel makes the ideal ice pack because it conforms to the contours of your body.
- Heat. While ice can be effective for numbing pain and reducing inflammation, heat can help to relax tense muscles and increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the site of pain to promote healing. As a general rule for acute LBP, use dry or moist heat after the first 24 to 48 hours of icing.
- Gentle stretching. Gentle stretches that separate the intervertebral discs can relieve pressure on nerves and alleviate pain. Try “cat-cow” on your hands and knees, arching your back like a cat and then letting it sag like a cow. Move slowly and sync your breath with your movement. Lying on your back and hugging your knees to your chest can also be effective for alleviating pain.
- Light exercise. Exercise may seem counterintuitive if you’re in pain, but it can actually help realign your joints and relieve pressure on nerves. Easy walking, swimming laps or aquatic exercise are all good options.
- Dietary changes. Being constipated can contribute to back pain. If your bowel movements are irregular, it’s a sign that you need to change your diet. Drink at least one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight, cut out processed food, sugar and grains, and opt for fresh organic vegetables and grass fed, free-range or wild-caught protein.
- Posture correction. Poor posture is a major cause of LBP. Sit and stand with your joints in alignment, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees over ankles. Engage your core muscles when standing and walking, and breathe deeply, using your diaphragm.
- Gait retraining. Faulty gait mechanics when walking can cause pain in your knees, hips and low back. A 3-D gait analysis can help identify deficits in gait mechanics that may be at the root of your back pain. You can get a gait analysis and retraining from a sports physical therapist.
- Movement analysis. If your job requires you to perform repetitive movements throughout the day, or if you exercise on a regular basis, there may be certain mechanical issues that are contributing to your back pain. A full-body motion analysis can help you correct deficient movement patterns that contribute to LBP.
- Reduced sitting. Sitting at a computer throughout the day is unique to modern times, and your body is designed to move. Take frequent breaks to get up and walk around, stretch and do some light exercise. And be sure to check your posture!
- Weight loss. Being overweight or obese is a major contributor to back pain, and the primary cause of metabolic disease and a weakened immune system. Begin with recommended dietary changes and daily light exercise. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise as you get stronger, and watch the pounds drop away! Eating all your daily calories in an 8-hour window gives your food time to digest, and gives your digestive system and vital organs a chance to rest and reset, to restore normal healthy body weight.
You can learn more about effective drug-free low back pain treatment here.
Take Charge of Your Own Health
You can’t rely on doctors and medications to fix your low back pain. The best way to eliminate pain syndromes and restore good health is to educate yourself and then take action. The measures outlined in this article are safe, effective and time-proven, and you can get started right away. For gait analysis and retraining, movement assessment and posture correction in NYC, contact NYDNRehab in Manhattan.