Anyone who has suffered from low back pain knows how disruptive and demoralizing it can be, especially if left unchecked. Even modest bouts can restrict your activities, distract you at work, add to your stress and even cause depression — even more so when the pain seems to go unabated or even intensify over time. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do that may keep low back pain from getting worse. Here’s a partial list of things to try.
This might seem self-explanatory, but in reality a lot of people don’t make the connection between certain types of movement and their back pain. Try to identify behaviors, activities and movements that might be aggravating your injury, and avoid those activities. That doesn’t mean you become sedentary or immobile (more on that in a moment) — it just means you are giving your back a temporary break from the things that are causing it to hurt, to give it a chance to heal.
Granted, when you’re experiencing back pain, sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But with the exception of activities that specifically aggravate your back (see above), you should stay as active as you can. Strong muscles and flexibility are two of your best natural weapons against back pain. Talk to a doctor or physical therapist about low-impact exercises you can do to strengthen your back muscles and take some of the pressure off your spine. If you sit at a desk for work, take time to get up and stretch every once in awhile.
In many cases, low back pain comes on us gradually as a result of bad posture habits. You can mitigate and sometimes even reverse the pain by changing these habits. Don’t slouch forward when you sit, stand or walk. Practice standing/sitting with a straightened back keeping your head situated squarely above your shoulders. You might be surprised at how much better you feel in just a few weeks.
A cheap or worn mattress that offers little or no support can definitely make low back pain worse. In fact, a bad mattress might even be the cause of your pain. Everyone’s firmness preferences are a little different, but generally speaking, low back pain sufferers do better on a medium-firm mattress — one that supports pressure points without being too firm. Do some research and test some mattresses at your local furniture store to see if you can get a better night’s sleep.
The connection between smoking and back pain might not be obvious, but trust us, it’s there. Nicotine restricts the amount of oxygen in the blood necessary to nourish your back muscles; it also restricts blood flow to the spine itself, which can cause the disks to dry out and crack. Considering all the other health risks smoking causes, now might be the perfect time to quit. Your back will thank you for it — along with your lungs, heart, and lot of other parts of your body.
When basic self-care doesn’t seem to be curtailing your low back pain, and when the pain seems to be progressing, it’s time to seek out an experienced spine specialist to explore your medical options for managing the pain. Don’t assume this means you have to have surgery. Modern medicine offers many alternatives to treat back and spine issues, including physical therapy, massage therapy, regenerative injection therapy and more, with surgery considered as a last resort.
More than 80 percent of Americans will experience some form of low back pain at some point in their lives. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live with it, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to let it get worse. Try some of the remedies we’ve described above and see whether they offer you improvement — and if necessary, seek medical help. Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center offers many treatment options which have helped thousands of people experience relief from their low back pain. To learn more about these options, call us for an appointment today at 404-256-2633.