Have you ever suffered from low back pain? If not, you’re in the minority. 80% of people will at some stage experience this debilitating condition.
So, if you do suffer from back pain, what action can you take to solve the problem?
Well, the first priority is to change your perception of the pain.
Working as a physiotherapist for the last ten years, I’ve treated numerous patients who complain that their condition is either hereditary or an inevitability. They refuse to be held accountable, and feel incapable of managing the problem.
This type of attitude gives back pain the power.
So, if you agree that back pain can be caused by your lifestyle, the first step is to understand what may be causing the problem, to allow you to change it.
Firstly, I would encourage you to consider when your pain is worse.
Is it when you’re sitting, standing or running at the gym?
If you can isolate the pattern of the pain, you can start modifying the activities that may be causing the issue.
Sitting is often a major aggravating factor for back pain. If this is the case for you, change your routine by getting up and moving before you feel the pain.
Standing up and stretching at work is imperative to prevent stiffness in the spine and provide nourishment to discs, joints and nerves.
Try setting a reminder on your computer to encourage you to move regularly, ideally every hour.
Even simple changes like this can make a huge difference.
Perfect your posture
As well as prolonged sitting, poor sitting posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain. Sitting without support in the lower back encourages slouching, which places a huge amount of pressure on the lower back.
If your chair doesn’t have any lower back support, roll a bath towel into a sausage shape and place it in the small of your back to support the spine. Ensure that you are sitting as far back in the chair as possible.
Move you chair closer to your desk to avoid leaning forward, and adjust the height of the chair to allow your hips and knees to be at right angles and your feet to rest comfortably on the floor.
The human spine is constructed with flexibility in mind. In a predominantly desk based in job, the lack of daily movement can lead to stiffness in the lower back.
The muscles that support the spine become weak and consequently fail to provide protection against injury during vulnerable movements, such as rotating and bending.
These stretches should be performed two to three times a day to release any tight structures.
There are many more helpful exercises, but by starting with a select few that you can repeat daily, you’re more likely to stick with a programme.
Working on general fitness is a great way to beat back pain. It stimulates movement, strengthens muscles and promotes weight loss.
Try low impact exercise at the gym such as the static bike or elliptical trainer, which are unlikely to cause any inflammation or aggravate your back pain.
If there’s no reaction to these exercises, you can progress to walking on the treadmill. Only try running when your back pain is gone, as the high impact can irritate any pre-existing spinal problem.
Attending classes such as yoga and pilates are advisable, while gentle swimming can provide excellent relief from back pain.
Begin exercising two to three times a week and build from there. With any exercise, pacing is paramount. Start with short, light sessions before assessing if there’s any reaction in your pain. If there isn’t you can slowly increase the intensity of your workouts.
Address any psychological triggers
Back pain can be an incapacitating condition, the constant discomfort testing to live with. Unsurprisingly, there’s a huge link between anxiety, depression and back pain.
Psychological triggers can easily manifest in physical symptoms.
There may be problems at home or work, causing you stress. Such psychological triggers result in your nervous system becoming hypersensitive and your muscles to tighten.
If you’re not sleeping well, this can also make you more susceptible to pain.
Only by addressing these stresses can you really start to tackle the physical symptoms.
When I used to run back pain classes, I ensured that breathing techniques and relaxation were an integral part of the session.
Ensure you have no potential distractions, and lie down in a dark room with relaxing music. Move your head from side to side, shrug your shoulders, shake your arms, repeating these movements throughout your body, as you visualise the release of tension. It may be useful to take a warm bath beforehand to ease any muscle tightness.
Tip: If you have back pain lying flat, either bring the knees up to rest your feet on the floor/bed or place your knees over a pillow. When lying on your side, position a pillow between your legs to keep your spine straight.
Imagine you’re in relaxing place, and clear your mind of all other thoughts. Maintain this exercise for at least ten minutes.
Get back to basics
Although low back pain is a multi-faceted condition, you can easily begin self-treating with the techniques listed above.
If your pain is very acute, or unresponsive, book an appointment with your doctor or physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist can use treatments such as electrotherapy, acupuncture or manual therapy to kick-start your recovery. Please note however, that treatment is no substitute for implementing the necessary lifestyle changes.
With discipline and a positive attitude, a healthy spine is achievable. So, be proactive and start treating your back pain today.
Please note that I am a registered physiotherapist, highly experienced in treating back pain. If you suffer any pain while using the techniques described, please stop and seek guidance from a medical practitioner.
If you suffer from back pain, please share your story in the comments.
|Written on 3/7/2014 by Joel Key. Joel Key is a writer and physiotherapist. When he’s not indulging his passion for motorcycle adventure, he’s finding inspiration through writing over at www.joelkey.com. Pick up a free copy of his ‘Change Manifesto’ today. Follow Joel on Twitter and Google +.|
Photo Credit: JD’na