For many, back pain is triggered by a strenuous activity, such as gardening or weight-lifting. Others simply bend down to pick up a pen and their back gives out.
Any back pain or injury should be addressed immediately. Early intervention can help prevent a chronic problem from developing and obviate the need for medication, or worse, surgery. A combination of activity, core strengthening exercises and osteopathic treatment or physiotherapy should help 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,” says Mike Flippin, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in back and spine care at San Diego Medical Center. Get moving as quickly as possible.
2. Keep Exercising
Activity is often the best medicine for back pain. Simple exercises such as walking can be very helpful, getting people out of a sitting posture and putting the body in a neutral, upright position. However, move in moderation and stay away from strenuous activities like gardening.
3. Maintain Good Posture
The pain may have started after a long workout at the gym, but the strain that caused it has probably been building for years. Poor posture puts unnecessary strain on backs. 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 individualised exercise plan is essential to managing chronic back pain. Some patients need more core strengthening while others benefit mainly from stretching and improving flexibility. Find a physical therapist, osteopath or exercise physiologist who specialises 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. Increase flexibility to put an equal load throughout the body from the feet all the way up to the head.
7. Ditch the Brace
It’s tempting to baby your back muscles, but braces should be used sparingly. “Braces are helpful for strenuous activities, like heavy lifting, but only keep 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.