According to the American Chiropractic Association, at any given time, 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain and an astounding 80% of Americans will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their life. The most common reasons for lower back pain include strenuous activities like such as weight lifting, hobbies like gardening, or jobs that require you to sit for the where you sit for a majority of the day.
Unfortunately, most people turn to exercise to help relieve their back pain & never seek professional help. Although we would advise at least talking to a medical professional, there are some things you can do to get some relief.
What Can You Do To Get Some Relief From Lower Back Pain?
Practice Good Posture Here we go again… How many of us have been told to sit up straight or not to slouch? One of the best things you can do to prevent & eliminate back pain is improve your posture. When sitting at your desk, make sure that your computer screen is at eye level (try using some books to lift your screen if needed) and make sure both feet are on the ground -- avoid crossing your legs. When standing or exercising, make sure your shoulders are down & back, away from your ears. Although it takes time to break bad habits, developing new ones can help alleviate your pain!
Get Up and Move at Work What is one of the worst things we can do for our body? Not move! When we spend so much of our time at work, we sometimes forget to take care of our bodies. Lunch time rolls around and that’s the first time you’ve moved since you started at 8am. Well, it’s time to change up your moving schedule!
Schedule times throughout the day to get up and get moving. Whether it’s a quick lap around the office, some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing, or investing a stand up desk, help your body by moving around.
Strengthen Your Core It all starts with your core! As they teach in Pilates, every movement stems from the core. When your core is strong and stable, so is the rest of your body.
Think about your core as the support system for your back. When your core is weak, your back has to do more work to support itself. When the core is strong, your back doesn’t have to work as hard. However, keep in mind that if your back is already bothering you, you should not jump into difficult core strengthening exercises, but try a lighter core exercise such as dead bugs to get started.
Stretch Depending on the severity of the pain you are experiencing, there are a number of stretches you can try! Some common back stretches include:
Child’s Pose: Start on your hands and knees. Keeping your hands flat on the floor, and lower your buttocks to your heels. Rest your forehead on the mat, stomach on your knees, and breathe. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat three times. (See below)
Open Book: Lie on your side on the floor with one arm on top of the other. Bend your hips and knee at 90 degrees. Exhale and bring your top arm across your body and lower it towards to floor. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Exhale and bring the arm back to the starting position. Repeat 5 times. (See below)
Hip Flexor: Kneel on one knee and place the other foot flat on the ground in front of you. Keep the torso tall with the abs tight. Learn forward, bending only through the hips and knees. The stretch should be down the front of the leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. (See below)
If it is difficult for you to get to the ground, try standing at the end of your bed with your flute slightly leaning against the edge. Pull one knee into your chest. Slowly roll backward onto the table and lie back relaxing the opposite leg and knee. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on both sides. (See below)
Try Ice and/or Heat Ice and heat can be great methods to help alleviate lower back pain. Ice helps reduce the amount of swelling, whereas heat should be used when you are feeling tight, achy, or stiff. If you use one and it doesn’t seem to help, try the other. Keep in mind that neither should be used for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Read more here.
Change Your Sleeping Position If you are a side or tummy sleeper, you may notice that you have increased lower back pain in the morning. If you’ve read our earlier posts, you know that sleeping on your back is the best position for your body! Again, breaking habits takes time- but it is worth it in the end. Do your best to transition to sleeping on your back and you will notice the difference in the morning.
Seek Help! Sometimes the best answer for pain is seeing a professional. Whether you schedule an appointment with your family doctor, an orthopedic specialist, or a physical therapist – talk to them about the pain you are experiencing. They may give you some suggestions for things to try, or they may ask that you have imaging done to make sure there is nothing more serious happening.
While back pain is common amongst Americans, there are many strategies you can adopt to help alleviate pain. Get moving, practice good posture, and keep your muscles loose. And remember, sometimes the best step in alleviating back pain is seeing a professional.
American Chiropractic Association, "Back Pain Facts and Statistics", https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics