If you suffer from lower back pain, you are a member of a large group. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) about 80 percent of adults experience pain in the low back at some time in their lives. In fact, it is the number one cause of work-related disability and a major factor in work absences. More than one fourth of adults participating in a large survey reported episodes of low back pain in the prior three months.
So what can be done to relieve low back pain, this most common of maladies? Here are five ways to relieve common back pain.
1. First of all, take a step in preventing low back pain by always stretching before physical activity. Then when back pain occurs, gently stretch out the pain. Very simple stretches can be effective such as “nodding” on purpose while sitting at your desk. Bend the head slowly backward, forward, and side to side at least three times per day. Try an “Upward Facing Dog.” Lie on the stomach with hands on the floor by the chest and press into the palms to lift the chest as far as it feels comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and lower very slowly to the starting position. Yoga stretches were found to be as effective as physical therapy as indicated in the Annals of Internal Medicine as reported by the New York Times.
2. Harvard Medical school recommends cold and heat therapies as effective pain relievers when used at the right times. After an injury, cold packs are the appropriate treatment as they numb pain and reduce swelling. Use cold compresses or freezer gel packs for about 20 minutes per session. This also works for the swelling of arthritis pain for many arthritis sufferers. About 48 hours after an injury, switch to gentle heat packs again for 20 minutes at a time to soothe the pain of an injury. Heat therapy, effective for a week after the injury, works by relaxing muscles and increasing the healing blood flow to the injured site. Several types of heat packs that can be warmed in the microwave oven are available at drugstores and other stores that sell home health products. An electric heating pad set to low may also be used.
3. While your back is hurting, be sure to wear low-heeled shoes, preferably with heel heights of no more than one inch. Make sure that the shoes are comfortable. Wearing heels is not a good choice for back pain sufferers, and causes unstable posture while putting pressure on the lower back.
4. If the pain is severe enough to put you in bed, limit the time spent in bed and spend some time moving around as the spine is meant to move to stay healthy. Keep the activity to simple daily activities at first, and increase as the pain decreases. Light household chores such as making the bed and walking the dog are good for you in most cases. Go to work unless otherwise advised by a medical professional.
5. If your work confines you to a chair, be sure to sit in one that provides good lumbar support and the correct position and height for your task. Gently pull the shoulders back so they are not hunching. Vary your position regularly. Get up and move around the room every 20 minutes or so. Stretch gently to relieve muscle tension. Be sure to use a small pillow or a towel roll in the small of the back to offer some lumbar support. When sitting for long stretches, elevate the legs with a low stool.
For persistent back pain that these ways of finding pain relief may not resolve, always seek medical attention. As well, complementary health therapies as recommended by Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing may prove to offer relief. These therapies include acupuncture, spinal manipulation, therapeutic massage, and movement therapies.
Acupuncture is a treatment wherein the practitioner inserts hair-thin sterilized needles into specific body points to release blocked energy. Spinal manipulation is performed by chiropractors who apply pressure to the body to align the spine. Massage relaxes muscles, while tai chi and yoga are movement therapies that stretch and strengthen muscles.