Maybe the phrase ‘a pain in the neck’ would have been better coined as a ‘a pain in the back!’ Anyone who has had low back pain knows that it can seriously affect your ability to function every step, every bend, every twist, and every moment of sitting, lying and sleeping in your day. Low back pain can be a real pain in the neck! And the worst part is that the statistics say that nearly all of us will experience low back pain at one time or another in our lives. Yikes! If only you could start treating yourself as soon as you injured your back instead of waiting the time it takes to get professional help. You easily can! Below are 7 tips to get you ‘back’ in the game of life ASAP. Why not give them a try?
7 Tips to Help You Help Yourself With Your Low Back Pain
Obviously, treatment of your low back pain depends on exactly what is causing it! Your best bet to find out the cause is to get to your Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy NOW as soon as possible. Physical Therapists can see you directly, you don’t need a doctor’s referral unless your insurer requires it. They can properly diagnose precisely what is causing your pain and then set you on the right path with the most effective treatment. Until you see your Physical Therapist, however, there are a few things you can do to get started on your recovery no matter what is causing that aching back!
One of the most important things you can do for your back ,particularly, if you don’t know what is causing your pain, is to take a rest. Rest, you say? Who has time to rest? Resting the back doesn’t necessarily mean sitting around doing nothing at all. Rest means to decrease the activities that you have normally been doing or at least those ones that you know flare-up your back pain. Resting your back does a couple of things: Firstly, it stops the irritation on your back and gives it a little time to heal! Secondly, it provides some important information about what your back pain does when you treat it with some simple tender loving care. This key information can help your Physical Therapist determine the ultimate cause of your back pain.
Weren’t we just talking about resting? Moving your back means not staying in one position too long. It is well known that sitting and standing cause more pressure on your back versus simply lying down. The ironic thing is that lying around on your back for long periods isn’t helpful either! Move. This means don’t stay in one position too long. Generally back injuries do prefer some time in the day lying down, but they may also respond to sitting for awhile, standing for awhile, or walking for awhile. Mix up your positions to find out what works best for you but the Golden Rule is that you should not remain in any one position for too long. Remember that “the best posture is the NEXT posture”! When standing or sitting, you could try putting one foot up onto a little step or stool and switch which side is on the stool after a while. This little change in position can ‘move’ the your back enough to give some relief. Give it a go!
3) Ice or Heat
Brrrrrr! This is not everyone’s favorite treatment but if you have just injured your back then applying ice is essential to cut down on any unnecessary swelling and secondary injury to the tissues surrounding the main injury. If your injury occurred more than a few days ago, icing can still be extremely useful for the same purpose. But ice is so cold, what about heat, you ask? If the injury has occurred a few weeks back or is long-standing, you can try using heat on your back and see if that helps to decrease the pain. Many people find the warmth of a heating pad, a hot bath (if you can sit for awhile) or a hot shower significantly reduces their discomfort. Some people find a combination of ice or heat is best; listen to your body and use whichever helps the most!
4) Self Massage
Ahhhhhh. Now that sounds nice, doesn’t it? Rubbing the muscles in the painful area can help to ease your pain by calming spasm and releasing local pain-relieving hormones into that area. Better yet, if you can get someone else to do the massaging, do it! The massage should feel like it is soothing for your back, so if it is too hard or just simply makes it feel worse, stop.
Exercise? When my back is this sore? Yes! Start working on getting your back,abdominal muscles, buttocks and leg muscles to help support your spine, if you can do so without causing more pain. We know for a fact that having back pain causes the muscles that normally support your back to stop doing their job as well as they should be doing it. If you can get them going again, you have started on your road to recovery! Now don’t worry, we aren’t saying you need to go out and run a marathon or jump back to the gym. Keep reading… this simple exercise can do wonders for your pain: It is easier to do this exercise lying on your back with your knees bent up, but it can be done in any comfortable position. Use your abdominal muscles to gently pull in your belly button back towards your spine just a tiny bit. Do this without letting your chest rise up or without holding your breath. You can place your palm on your belly button and think of gently pulling your belly button away from your palm. Making it a light muscle contraction is the key so focus on the intensity of how hard you are tightening. You shouldn’t be squeezing hard enough to move the spine – it should stay flat but not press hard into the bed or floor. It should only be about 5-10% of the hardest contraction you could make. Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat 5-10x. Again, concentrate hard to not hold your breath or let your chest rise up. Do this 3-5X day and start to incorporate activating these supporting muscles when you are in other positions, such as when you are sitting, when you move positions such as getting up from lying or sitting, or when you are walking. The key thing is to teach your body to gently tighten just before moving and breathe the whole time you move. Build up to using this muscle throughout the day as often as possible, especially when you are moving from one position to another.
6) Lumbar Supports
Wearing a lumbar brace or support can make a big difference to the pain you feel in your low back. The idea that your back muscles will stop working to support your spine if you wear a brace is just not true! The back muscles will be able to work better if the brace takes away some of the pain, and/or you will be able to function pain-free for a longer period of time with the brace, so supports are definitely worth a try! There are many over-the-counter soft braces that can be very helpful, but they can be expensive to buy if you aren’t sure they will help. Our suggestion is that if you already have a brace, try it on to see if it decreases your symptoms. If it does, wear it as often as possible as long as it is helping. If you can trial a brace that a friend or family member has, try it on! Of course the brace needs to be a proper fit/size, but it can give you an idea of whether some outside support is going to help you before you invest in one yourself. The best solution would be to find a retailer that allows you to try on different braces in the shop and walk around to assess how it feels.A brace that is not too rigid and that you wrap around your back, then pull in front to tighten up works wonders for most patients.
7) Get some professional advice!
Quick! Get to your Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy NOW as soon as possible. Our Physical Therapists are well trained in diagnosing and treating low back injuries. They can put you through the appropriate testing to find out for sure what is causing your pain. They can assess your posture and help you with strategies to avoid slouching or other prolonged positions that aren’t great for your spine. Physical Therapists are even happy to screen you BEFORE you have a back pain episode to look at your daily life and activities and help troubleshoot ways to avoid back pain in the first place! If needed, a Physical Therapist will also send you on the right path for any necessary tests such as an x-ray, computed tomography image (CT) or a magnetic resonance image (MRI) to rule out serious issues or injuries that require more medical help. The good news is most people will not require these tests for back pain so don’t fret if your Physical Therapist or medical doctor doesn’t rush to send you for extra tests. Your Physical Therapist is the best person to advise you on the most appropriate exercises for you to do for your back, and which things to avoid in order to get the quickest recovery possible.