Back pain is the number 1 reason for missed work. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Upper respiratory infections are the number 1 reason to doctor’s office visits – back pain is number 2.
Back pain is very common and it is likely many of your friends and relatives have dealt with it at some point – about 80% of people with have back pain at some point. Because of this, we get a lot of practice treating it.
Here are 9 simple recommendations to reduce your back pain.
Taking deep easy breaths helps to keep muscles relaxed including your back. I will write a more in depth post about this in future, but for now just remember to breathe. Sometimes it is helpful to set an alarm on your watch, so that every hour you stop what you are doing and just take 5 deep, easy breaths. You can even inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Sitting increases the pressure on the discs in your back. In order to offset this, try to get up and move around for a few minutes every hour. Sit in an ergonomic chair, with your weight on your sit bones and your back relaxed and supported against the back of the chair. Move around often in the chair to share loads across various tissues – I do not expect OR WANT you to sit in the textbook sitting posture all day long at work! Do not go directly from sitting to heavy lifting or other strenuous activity – stand up, move around and generally warm up for at least 5 minutes first.
3- Neutral is good
Our spines are an engineering marvel, allowing us to move forward, backward, side to side, rotate and a combination of any and all of these. It is great to have these options for movement, but if you are lifting something heavy your spine is best able to withstand load in a NEUTRAL (or midrange) position. What does this mean? If you sit or stand with your hands on your pelvis you can try to tip your pelvis forward and backward. Neutral will be roughly in the middle. With a neutral pelvic position your back should have a normal lumbar lordosis (back curves slightly inward) and a normal thoracic kyphosis (back curves slightly outward). Whenever you lift always make sure your back is as close to NEUTRAL as possible.
4- Learn the golfers lift
Imagine how a golfer picks up a ball out of the hole – he stands on one leg and bends forward at the hip with a neutral spine, while his back leg stays more or less in line with his spine. This motion allows you to shift stresses from your back to your hip. You can use this when emptying the dishwasher, reaching into a low cabinet or picking something up off the floor.
5- Stagger your feet
Staggering your feet means having one foot ahead of the other. This makes it easier to shift your weight from one foot to the other when doing activities such as putting dishes away in a cupboard or other overhead activities. It also works well for activities like shoveling snow or stacking wood, as it allows you to move your weight from one foot to the other rather than having to twist your spine to generate motion and lift loads.
6- Push rather than pull
If you are moving something heavy, like a piece of furniture, try to push it rather than pull. Even better would be, if you are moving a table for example, to stand at a corner with a stagger stance. You can then shift your weight and use your thighs to push it around with minimal load on your hands or your back.
Vacuuming is often a problem for people with back pain because of the rotation involved. To limit rotation, try holding the vacuum cleaner with both hands. To limit loads at your spine even further, try to push the vacuum cleaner as much as possible (as if you were mowing the lawn) rather than constantly pushing and pulling back and forth.
8- Carrying bags
Carrying a bag over one shoulder, or in one hand, places an uneven load on your spine. Backpacks are a great solution to this – but only if you take the time to put on both shoulder straps. In addition to using both shoulder straps make sure that they are tight enough that your backpack sits snug against your back as this will keep the contents of your backpack closer to your spine.
This is a simple one to overlook. Being hydrated is good for the discs in our backs and it also helps decrease muscle aches and pains. It is best to limit caffeine and alcohol as these both are diuretics. Drink small amounts often.
These suggestions should help to start to reduce your low back pain. For further help tailored to your specific needs, contact us to schedule an appointment. Call us at (802) 876-1000 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some common causes of back pain are:
Nerve radicular pain:
This often feels like a stabbing/electric shock/deep aching/worst pain ever felt. The pain typically travels down your legs along the path of the nerve in a narrow band-like distribution. Lifting, twisting or extending your back increases the pain. Resting or laying down ease the pain. You may feel pins and needles along the nerve path and you may also have weakness. In severe cases there may be bowel or bladder problems.
Joint or facet pain:
Feels like a deep to dull aching and stiffness – sometimes there might be a sharp catch in your back. The pain will be located in your back and possibly across your buttocks but NOT down your legs. Pain is worsened by extending your back, twisting and sometimes by bending forward. Feels better with movement and exercise, especially stretching.
Comes on slowly. Feels like a dull ache to a severe deep ache. There may be a heavy feeling, weakness or clumsiness. Both legs may go numb and be weak. Pain is made worse by extending your back. Feels better to bend forward.
Muscle tear or pull:
This happens as a traumatic injury. It feels like a localized sharp deep ache right over the muscle that was injured. There may be weakness and swelling or even bruising. It feels worse if you try to work the injured muscle. Feels better with ice and rest.
Feels like a dull ache in your back and possibly down your leg. Bending forward and twisting make the pain worse. Rest and extending feels better.
Feels like a dull ache that is directly over the injury site. To ease pain avoid positions that you feel are stretching the ligaments – end ranges are often the worst.
Feels like a piercing pain that is very localized over the bony spine. Can cause nerve pain. Bending or twisting aggravate pain as does laying down.