What Can You Do for Your Low Back Pain to Find Relief?
Chances are you have experienced some sort of nagging pain, discomfort, or maybe even that sharp catch in your low back. Research indicates that 8/10 people will experience some sort of back pain over their lifetime. Unfortunately when we feel that pinching or tightness in our low back we fear the worst (Will I need to take off work? How long is this going to last? Will I be able to enjoy my life from now on?) There is good news! It doesn’t have to be this way.
Most occurrences of back pain can be likened to the common cold. It comes with a vengeance but over time, with the right treatment and care, it will go away. Research has shown that most acute episodes of low back pain will subside within 4-8 weeks with proper care. The sooner you address the pain the better.
The problem, however, lies in our world of “quick fixes” and “pills” that are sold to us as permanent relief when in reality they just put a band-aid on the issue. With these band-aids come harmful side effects. Did you know that Americans consume the vast majority of the world’s hydrocodone (painkillers)? There has to be a better way. There is a better way! Movement is the key to knocking down those debilitating back pain episodes. The key to healthy and correct movement is to know how to move, what type of activities you should be doing, and how to avoid aggravating your condition. This is where a Physical Therapist can help in your recovery.
What shouldn’t you do when you are in back pain?
So what shouldn’t you do when you have back pain? For starters, you want to avoid prolonged bed rest. When you have back pain the stabilizing muscles in your low back do not work as well compared to when you were pain-free. Lying down feeds into the cycle of your muscles inability to do their job appropriately..…which is to support the spine. Instead of lying down, it is recommended to carry on with your normal activities throughout the day within your pain limits. This type of activity keeps your muscles engaged throughout the day and limits the disuse of the muscle caused by the pain.
A lot of times people will have pain with certain movements such as twisting to put on a seatbelt, bending forward to pick up objects, standing up from a chair, sitting for prolonged periods, or even standing for extended periods of time. This will cause them to reconsider any type of movement because these movements often produce their pain. But what most don’t realize is that the fear of movement due to pain can actually feed into the pain causing it to increase. The best approach to take initially will be to move your spine gently without the fear of pain and avoid any excessive and quick movements.
Track Your Progress to Reach Your Goal
Our bodies require movement in order to heal from injuries, but the key is in deciphering which movements will heal you and which movements will harm you. A safe bet to take when you first injure your back is to begin a gentle walking program. This may start as a 3-minute walk and hopefully, blossom to a 30 min walk. It will be important to log down a few things when you walk. You will want to keep track of how long you walked and how much discomfort you may have felt. By logging your progress each day/week you can begin to see how you are able to walk farther and with less discomfort. The goal is to continue to improve your tolerance to the specific activity. Want to know the greatest benefit of walking? It’s FREE!
Walking helps the body release its “natural medicine cabinets” of powerful chemical neurotransmitters that help decrease your pain and make you feel better. Unlike those addictive pain meds many doctors prescribe, the natural painkillers the brain produces are free of cost and have no side effects. The bonus to walking is that it also reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes!
Understand When Pain is “OK” and When it is Not
Now the key here, in the beginning, is to remember that “hurt” does not always mean “harm”. Many folks will start a gentle exercise or walking regiment when they get hurt, but then quickly give in at the first sign of discomfort. But what is important to decipher is whether or not this “discomfort” is just soreness or if it is actually irritating pain. When you begin your walking program it will be important to understand your limits. Everybody experiences pain differently so there is no cookie cutter approach. I would recommend walking to the point of where you feel minimal discomfort (say 3-5/10 pain) depending on your tolerance. You never ever want to push through a lot of pain “just to get it done,” but it will be important to tolerate some moments of discomfort in order to be able to condition your body to accommodate.
These tips won’t necessarily heal your back pain. However, if you are like the thousands of DIY people out there and are looking for a place to start, then your best bet will be with these tips. There are many interventions aimed at decreasing your back pain. It is important to choose treatments that you can perform on your own (i.e specific exercises, aerobic activities) so that you can be in control of your condition. This will allow you to improve your mobility and participate in the activities you love to do.