Tips for Back Pain

massage for back painNearly 80% of Americans will experience a back problem during their lifetime. For many, the injury is triggered by a strenuous activity, like gardening or weight lifting. Others simply bend down to pick up a pencil and their back gives out.

It is critical that people address any back pain or injury right away. Early intervention can help prevent a chronic problem from developing and obviate the need for medication and surgery.

Here are 12 ways to help alleviate back pain:

1. Limit Bed Rest

Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who rest feel more pain and have a harder time with daily tasks than those who stay active.

Patients should avoid more than three days of bed rest.  Get moving as quickly as possible.

2. Keep Exercising

Activity is often the best medicine for back pain.  Simple exercises like walking can be very helpful – it gets you out of a sitting posture and puts the body in a neutral, upright position.

Remember to move in moderation.  Stay away from strenuous activities like gardening and avoid whatever motion caused the pain in the first place.

3. Maintain Good Posture

accident injuryThe pain may have started after a long workout at the gym, but the strain that caused it has probably been building for years.  Most people have poor posture when going about their daily activities, putting unnecessary strain on their backs.

Little things add up, and you can increase the pressure on your back by 50% simply by leaning over the sink incorrectly to brush your teeth. Keeping the right amount of curvature in the back takes pressure off the nerves and will reduce back pain.

4. See a Specialist

Developing an individualized exercise plan is essential to managing chronic back pain.  There is no magic aspirin that addresses lower back pain in everyone.  Some patients need more core strengthening while others benefit mainly from stretching and improving flexibility.  Find a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or chiropractor who specializes in back care. They will match you with the right exercise plan.

5. Strengthen Your Core

Most people with chronic back pain would benefit from stronger abdominal muscles.  The torso is a combination of many muscle groups working together.  If the abdominals are weak, other areas must pick up the slack. When we strengthen the abdominals, it often reduces the strain on the lower back.

6. Improve Flexibility

Too much tension and tightness can cause back pain. The goal in increasing flexibility is to put an equal load throughout the body from the feet all the way up to the head.  One good exercise is to sit on the edge of the bed with one leg extended and the other one on the floor.  Give your hamstrings a stretch by leaning forward while keeping your back in a neutral position.

7. Ditch the Brace

It’s tempting to baby your back muscles, but Davis says braces should be used sparingly. Braces are helpful for strenuous activities, like heavy lifting, but try keeping them on for 15 minutes at a time.  If you wear a brace all day, the muscles (which should be providing stability) weaken and you will have less core strength.

8. Apply Ice and Heat

Heating pads and cold packs can comfort tender trunks. Most doctors recommend using ice for the first 48 hours after an injury, particularly if there is swelling, and then switching to heat.

It is difficult to say if ice or heat is more beneficial.  Use whichever you find comforting as long as your skin is protected.

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Important note: this post is provided for informational purposes only, and in no way constitutes individual medical advice.  Please consult a doctor or certified medical practitioner for advice or proper treatment.