Tip Content Provided By: EXOS
Next to the common cold, low back pain is the most common reason people visit their health care providers. In fact, 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given time.1 You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t realize that many people had back pain, so what do I do about it?” You’d also be surprised to know that most episodes of acute (short-term) low back pain get better on their own in about 6-8 weeks.
So let’s get real…what should you do to manage your low back pain?
1. Don’t reference “Dr. Google!”
I get it…you’re trying to get more information about your symptoms, but this is can sometimes do more harm than good. By searching the internet you’ll likely find anxiety-producing images of spines that are deranged and damaged and blog posts that do the same. Most people do not fall into these categories and there is a great deal of emerging research that shows imaging does not always correlate to symptoms.
2. Do you feel like you may have a mobility problem?
Try bending forward, bending backwards, bending sideways to both sides and then rotating to both sides. Do any of these movements feel or appear restricted? You may need some mobility work. Lay down on your back and bring both of your knees to your chest using your arms to overpressure. Then lay down on your stomach and bend backwards by keeping your hips on the floor and pushing up with your arms. These movements should be fluid and should not require the use of your core muscles.
3. Modulate your core activity based on the demand of the task you are trying to complete.
This means you don’t need to walk about with your core braced at 100% all the time. How many times have you heard, “Your core is weak…”? Studies have shown that people are walking around with too much core activity when they don’t need it. This places unneeded compression on your low back. How can you correct this? Practice diaphragmatic breathing and you will feel yourself relaxing. Lay down on your back and place one hand on your chest and another on your belly. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and breath out for 8 seconds. As you move air, focus on moving through your belly rather than your chest. This will help you relax your core and engage your diaphragm- your primary breathing muscle. Studies also show that breathing can also have an important calming effect and reduce stress which obviously accompanies low back related symptoms.
4. General movement trumps everything else!
Studies have shown that activities as simple as walking can improve low back pain. One thing that isn’t recommended by the medical community is to rest for weeks or months and take opioids for pain that lasts longer than 3 months. Get active in a way that doesn’t reproduce your symptoms. Do something similar to your normal activities that you enjoy doing. Don’t stay away from activities that are tied to your identity.
5. If all else fails, reach out to your physician or physical therapist.
If you notice that these few things referenced above are not helping, do not hesitate to reach out to someone for help. Remember, most cases of low back pain can resolve quickly, but the sooner you reach out to a doctor, the better the prognosis. Don’t live with pain for months.