Not all lower back pain is the same. Lower back pain can be acute simply due to sleeping in a weird position or, it can be chronic due to more serious underlying conditions. Ultimately, our everyday activities, from the way we move to the ways we don’t move, can affect our general lower back health.
This consists of an entire system of muscles, ligaments, and tendons moving together to protect and balance each vertebra that composes our spine. Thus, when we move incorrectly while, for example, lifting a heavy object, or stay in a seated position for too long, you may experience pain, aches, stiffness and an inability over time to do your routine, daily activities.
Today, we’re sharing our best tips for maintaining strong, pain-free back & spine health that you accomplish straight from home!
Here are 10 Tips for Lower Back Pain:
Tip #1 for Lower Back Pain: Maintain Good Posture
Your spine is strong and stable when you practice healthy posture. But when you slouch or stoop, your muscles and ligaments strain to keep you balanced — which can lead to back pain, headaches and other health issues.
A healthy back has three natural curves. Good posture helps maintain these natural curves, while poor posture does the opposite — which can stress or pull muscles and cause pain.
- Cervical Curve - inward or forward curve at the neck
- Thoracic Curve - outward or backward curve at the upper back
- Lumbar Curve - inward curve at the lower back
Whether you are standing, walking, or sitting, it is important to keep your posture in mind. Here are some tips to help:
- Stand or sit straight. Keep your shoulders relaxed — not elevated, rounded or pulled backward. Keep your head level and in line with your body.
- If standing, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart. If sitting, avoid crossing your legs. Instead, keep your knees forward.
- If the chair you’re using does not support your lower back's lumbar curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back.
- If standing or walking, bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet with your hands hanging naturally at your sides. If you are on your feet for long periods of time, shift your weight from your toes to your heels or from one foot to the other.
Tip #2 for Lower Back Pain: Strengthen Your Core
Strengthening your core or the muscles around your lower back can prevent future back and spine pain. Most people associate “the core” with the “six-pack” abs region, or abdominal muscles. However, the core includes other important parts of the body:
- Rectus Abdominis - Six-pack abs
- Obliques - Muscles along the side of your body
- Transverse Abdominal - A deep muscle that wraps around the front
- Glutes, diaphragm, hip flexors, pelvic muscles
When your core is weak, your lower back muscles will use the passive structures around it -- spinal discs, ligaments (connective tissues), etc. -- to provide the needed support for balance, stability, and movement. The overuse of these passive structures may cause and lead to long-term pain. But when your core is strong and constantly working, your body supports your back by relying on these strong core muscles.
Low impact activities including Pilates and yoga are great ways to strengthen your core without the use of excessive equipment - perfect for these new, long days at home without public gyms.
Tip #3 for Lower Back Pain: Stretch Those Hamstrings
Tight hamstring muscles are another common factor that can result in lower back pain. Tight hamstrings will pull on the ischial tuberosities, one of the areas of your pubic bone. This pull creates a movement causing your pelvis to tilt back and your spine vertebrae in your lower back to move forward. This opposite movement strains the area and can cause the spinal discs to bulge, a condition called herniated discs, which is very painful.
Therefore, by stretching and lengthening your hamstrings, you are moving your body as it was intended to be, rather than putting extra stress on your spine. When your hamstrings are relaxed, this allows both your pelvis and spine vertebrae in your lower back to tilt forward, removing the strain off the ligaments and disks.
By stretching your hamstrings on a regular basis, you can fortify your body and prevent the onset of strain and lower back pain. Here is a simple method known as the towel hamstring stretch:
- Lie on the floor on your back.
- Loop a long bath towel around your toes and hold the ends of the towel in both hands.
- Slowly pull on the towel to lift your straight leg up. Be sure to keep your knee straight. The leg without the towel should remain flat on the ground.
- Bring your leg up until a stretch is felt behind your thigh. You may also feel a stretch in your calf. This is normal.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then relax.
- Repeat three to five times on each leg.
Tip #4 for Lower Back Pain: Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity has been scientifically linked to lower back pain. Extra weight can negatively affect the lumbar (lower back) region while adding stress to your joints and muscles:
- Lower back - Additional weight around the midsection pulls the pelvis forward, straining the lower back and creating pain.
- Spine - Overweight individuals are more prone to experiencing spinal disc degeneration, herniated discs, and sciatica. This is due to the spinal discs overcompensating for the added pressure to the back.
- Muscles - Lumbar (lower back) muscle strains and sprains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Muscle strains and sprains are common in the lower back, because it supports the weight of the upper body and is involved in moving, twisting and bending constantly.
Maintaining a healthy weight can thus help alleviate back pain and prevent future aches. Regular exercise, mindful & sustainable meal planning, and a healthy mindset are some of the ways that can help you find a long-term, balanced routine that works for you.
Tip #5 for Lower Back Pain: Physical & Occupational Therapy
If you experience lower back pain that has persisted for a long time, your doctor may refer you to physical and occupational therapists. Physical therapy includes passive treatments, such as ice and heat treatments, and more active treatments, such as exercises and stretches. The aim of physical therapy is to identify the root of the lower back pain and to decrease and prevent future flare ups by teaching patients proper function movements and overall body maintenance. Occupational therapy aims at teaching patients how to perform tasks given their motor capabilities. Occupational therapists will teach patients how to correctly sit, stand, reach for overhead items, lift items from the ground, drive, and more. These exercises can be extremely successful in alleviating current tension while working towards preventing such tension from returning.
Tip #6 for Lower Back Pain: Ice and Heat Therapy
Ice and heat therapies are most beneficial at relieving lower back pain in the immediate and short-term time frame. Commonly, the most effective method of using ice and heat therapy depends on finding the right balance that works for your body specifically. This can change depending on how chronic the pain you have experienced is. Ice therapy can ease inflammation and pain, whereas heat therapy can loosen the muscle which encourages relaxation.
- Ice Therapy - In most cases, you should first use ice on your back for the first 24 to 72 hours of lower back pain for 20 minutes at a time. Ice therapy reduces swelling and inflammation often in the lower back caused by muscle strains, spinal disc protrusions, or tissue damages. You can use an ice pack, frozen towel, or a frozen bag of vegetables. Be sure to always place a cloth between your skin and any ice source to prevent any ice burns.
- Heat Therapy - Apply heat to an area once swelling and inflammation have reduced or subsided. Heat warms up the muscles in the surrounding lower back region, stimulating blood flow and fostering healing. Heat may decrease stiffness, which encourages the muscles to relax, thus increasing bodily mobility. Once mobility is increased, it is important to stretch your lower back. Heat can be applied in the forms of either dry heat or moist heat. Dry heat can be found in the form of topicals or hot packs, whereas moist heat is usually from sources like saunas or simply a warm, wet towel.
If pain continues to persist after using these therapies, it is important that you consult your physician.
Tip #7 for Lower Back Pain: Maintain a Good Sleeping Position
Another common cause of lower back pain is a result of sleeping in a non-ergonomic or physically stressing position. Certain positions, such as sleeping on your stomach, can place excess pressure on your back, which can trigger back pain. Having good sleeping posture is important in getting a night of well-rested sleep and promoting long-term spine health to combat future ailments. Here are 2 great sleeping positions that can reduce lower back pain:
- Sleeping on your side - doctors recommend sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees to ensure spine alignment
- Sleeping on your back - support your neck with a pillow underneath your head and place a pillow under your knees to maintain the curve of your lower back
Tip #8 for Lower Back Pain: Relieve Daily Stress
Stress can take a toll on the human body by manifesting through hormonal changes, weight gain or loss, headaches, and other physical sensations. It can also significantly affect your mental health & state. Physically, stress affects our neck and lower back regions, causing the muscles around our neck, shoulders, and down our spine to tighten. This is why we may experience pain, tightness, or soreness in these areas when under heavy stress.
The first step in alleviating lower back pain caused by stress is to find the root cause of the stress and work towards relieving it. People tend to become more sedentary when stressed. So it is beneficial to keep moving, stretching, and exercising, especially during these long days stuck at home or inside. Overall, physical activity increases endorphins, which improves our general health and works against stress and tension. Whatever the root of the stress may be, always listen to your body. These physical manifestations of pain act as your body’s way of signaling that you need to prioritize your self-care and wellness. Ways to help alleviate and prevent stress include meditating, practicing yoga, exercising, journaling, drawing and more.
Tip #9 for Lower Back Pain: Invest in an Ergonomic Chair
From sitting in a chair for hours to driving your long commutes, these environments and habits can lead to back pain and exacerbate existing health issues in your body. Generally, sitting in a static position applies pressure on your back, legs, arms, and shoulders but even more so, on your spinal discs. In addition, people tend to slouch, which compromises posture and spine health over time. Incorrect posture, as mentioned earlier, can make someone more prone to long-term spinal injuries and other conditions.
Given the light of our new Covid-19 world, our work from home lifestyle is just calling for an ergonomic chair to join! With these long hours working from home or having to stay indoors, sitting for longer periods of time is just waiting for back pain to come knocking on the door. You can maximize your back support and maintain good posture while you work with your very own ergonomic chair (AsanaSeat anyone?). Ultimately, any chair you get should always have lumbar (lower back) support, which is essential to offloading any strain on your lower back.
Tip #10 for Lower Back Pain: Use Infrared Light Therapy
Infrared light therapy is a method that is clinically used to treat minor and chronic pain. It can hasten the process of cell, muscle, and tissue repair after an injury. Infrared light penetrates into the skin and improves the circulation of oxygen-rich blood in your body, promoting faster healing of deep tissues and relief of pain. This therapy uses different wavelengths and colors of light to target different areas in the body. When infrared light is exposed to these targeted areas, these areas use their photoreceptors to absorb the light and initiate the process of cell regeneration. Infrared light is both non-invasive and side-effect free – as demonstrated by the VidaCushion.