Forget everything you have heard about the age at which back pain is allowed to afflict you. Studies show that lower back pain affects 8 out of 10 people and begins at all stages of life. The current debate is not whether a patient is suffering from real lower back pain, but how to best treat it. These 9 steps give relief for thousands of people every day.
Heat and cold. For years, doctors have preached the value of applying ice and heating pads, especially for sprains and lower back pain. Scott Schreiber, chiropractor, agrees with this method. He advises lower back pain patients to use an ice pack or cold cloth for about 20 minutes and then remove it for half an hour.
“After that, use heat for the same interval. This will reduce muscle spasms and soothe the affected area,” Schreiber says.
Activity. Researchers analyzed more than 20 studies from all across the globe that dove into the prevention, treatment and causes of lower back pain. While the causes are many, they deduced that the best solution to lower back pain is exercise. Jog around the block or join a yoga class. Nothing intense is necessary, but being more active proved to cut both future and existing lower back pain by about 40 percent.
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No soft furniture. Your soft bed and your cloud-like couch feel like heaven for that lower back pain, but the affects are the opposite. Cushions and seats with more firmness and density is healthier for your body and better for preventing lower back pain. There is no need to sit on a bag of rocks, but the more support you have, the more control you have over your lower back pain.
Stretch your hammys. Stretching out your hamstrings helps relieve some of the lower back pain. Many people don’t realize that tight hamstrings put pressure on your lower back, causing the pain. Mind and body therapist Stephanie Mazzanti recommends that patients do hammy stretches at least twice a day to reduce that tightness.
“Often, lower back issues are related to tightness through the back of the legs,” Stephanie says.
Watch your posture. Schreiber observed that people with less than perfect posture have more trouble with lower back pain than patients who don’t. He also noted that unnecessary twisting and bending were major contributing factors.
“Almost always, lower back pain has a postural component,” Schreiber says. “Avoid slouching and use a lumbar roll when sitting or driving.”
Shake your fanny. Wait, what? No, doctors aren’t suggesting that a night on the town takes down lower back pain. Instead, get in your pajamas on a day off and lie on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Put on your favorite movie and it won’t even feel like exercise. During commercials or slow scenes, simulate 10 push-ups, keeping your waist as flat as possible.
“This may cause soreness initially, but the pain will dull,” Schreiber says.
Get off your seat. It seems like sitting eases lower back pain, but studies prove that too much sitting is actually worse for you. It weakens the muscles responsible for supporting your lower back, which adds unnecessary strain. Get up and move around a couple of times every hour, even if you aren’t feeling any pain in your lower back.
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Your favorite anti-inflammatory. This is another medical favorite for lower back pain, especially the all natural anti-inflammatory meds such as turmeric and ginger. Always discuss any supplements you wish to add with your doctor, though, even the natural ones.
Say no to heels. Those new four-inch heeled platforms are cute, but your lower back despises them and they aren’t worth the pain. Opt for shoes with heels that are less than one inch tall to relieve some of the lower back pressure.
Weight shifting. No, not weight lifting. Whenever you have to stand in one place for long periods of time, especially while carrying heavy items, re-position your feet every few minutes. This prevents your weight from leaning in the same direction for too long and alleviates the pain standing causes in your lower back. Joe L’Abbe, physical therapist, elaborates.
“It looks similar to the movements of a boxer,” he says.
Remember to shift your weight from foot to foot, bending only from below the waist. And of course, also remember to breathe. Alleviate some of that lower back pain, but don’t faint in the process.
[Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]