Many of us have suffered with lower back pain at one time or another. It can range from mildly annoying to extremely painful. It can come on quickly or have a gradual onset. Specific reasons for the pain can be difficult to determine and recovery can take a long time. Lower back pan is one of the main reasons people seek treatment from a chiropractor, physiotherapist or physician. It is also one of the main reasons people lose time at work. People who smoke, are overweight, sedentary, have poor posture or have weak back and abdominal muscles are more susceptible to back pain. We don’t normally think of smoking, although it causes many other health problems, as a low back pain risk. One study, however, found that those who smoked where a third more likely to have back pain than non-smokers. So this is another reason to kick the habit if at all possible.
Low back pain can be due to an acute injury that happens abruptly such as incorrect lifting or it can be due to an overuse injury that gradually worsens over time. Sometimes something as simple as picking a tissue from the floor can trigger back pain. This will not be the cause but will be “the straw that breaks the camels back” so to speak. Chiropractors and physiotherapists are excellent at assessing and treating back injury. It is probably not necessary to see a physician unless the pain is debilitating or doesn’t improve with treatment. A physician can do the necessary medical tests to determine a more serious problem if one exists.
Fight the urge to stay in bed when low back pain comes on. We were designed to move. If bed rest is necessary it should not be more than 1-2 days. Avoid heavy lifting but continue light activities. Focus on improving and maintaining good posture at all times but especially when lifting. Seek the advice of the chiropractor or physiotherapist to gradually rehabilitate the injury. Very often specific exercises to stretch and strengthen abdominal and back muscles can relieve the pain and prevent it from returning. When continuing your normal activities, be aware of engaging the abdominal muscles and using the legs to lift, not the back. Avoid lifting and twisting at the same time. Continue to work on strengthening the core muscles and keeping the leg muscles flexible even after the chiro or physio has released you. Poor core strength and tight hip flexors or hamstrings can bring on constant lower back discomfort. Continue exercising to avoid more pain. Working with a personal trainer specializing in injury prevention can help you continue to make gains and avoid set backs. Programs such as pilates and yoga can also be beneficial but be sure the instructor knows you have had back discomfort. Seek an entry level class or ask for modifications to help you progress gradually. Be aware at all times of how you are feeling during a class. Stick to the “if it hurts, don’t do it” rule. The instructor will understand. If they don’t, find another who does. Get familiar with the therapeutic techniques used to rehabilitate the injury. And get familiar with your body. At the first twinge of any returning pain, use the stretches or exercises to prevent it.
Emotions and stress can bring on pain. Tension gets held in all areas of the body and we may not even realize it. Pain is the result. The brain can increase your pain. The worse you think your pain will be, the worse it will become. Chronic pain can bring on anxiety and depression. Working to reduce stress and rerouting thoughts away from the pain center can help prevent more serious issues. Yoga and meditation are also excellent training for this. Getting quality rest is important as well. The body feels pain when it isn’t well rested. While napping can be restorative it can also disrupt quality nighttime sleep, especially if the nap is more than 20 minutes. It’s best to go to sleep and wake at the same times each day. When sleeping it is helpful to sleep on ones side with a pillow between the knees to prevent back pain. If you are experiencing low back pain, focus in on your posture, core strength and hip flexibility. See a chiropractor or physiotherapist if necessary and exercise regularly to treat and prevent the problem.