Back pain seems to be a more inherent symptom of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles; consequently, leading to chronic back pain, weight gain and more need for days off. Unfortunately, for many people in a variety of industries, this past year has presented many unforeseen changes and has had a negative impact on people’s work, schedules and stress. For these reasons and more, many people may overlook the fact that there are techniques and options to do at home or for minimal cost to help with the frustrating and constant backaches.
In most cases, it is difficult to accurately diagnose the cause of lower back pain. If you are not sure of the source of the pain, your next best option may be to work with your doctor on decreasing the inflammatory flare-ups and having some tools in your belt to help manage the pain with some nonsurgical treatments.
Tips for Dealing with Lower Back Pain
1. Restorative Sleep
The number one issue for almost everyone we speak to that comes into our clinic is not having sufficient restorative sleep nightly. This can be due to a myriad of reasons; interestingly, more and more clinical studies show the significance that lack of sleep has on our health. Restorative sleep is crucial for the body’s tissues to heal and recharge energy levels as well as increase brain function.
If you are dealing with lower back pain this can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, insomnia, and possibly more health issues and chronic back pain. We suggest creating a nightly routine to get in the habit of sleeping 8-9 hours a night if possible. Also, try turning off your electronics and relaxing with some soft music and some aromatherapy. Also, while sleeping if you are experiencing a lot of lower back pain, try placing a pillow between your knees if you are lying on your side, or 2 – 3 pillows under your knees if you are laying on your back.
Being mindful of your posture, no matter if it’s during sleep, at the computer or when walking is important; keeping a correct posture is a simple way that is the first to be overlooked when dealing with back pain. Remember, if you tend to be sitting for long periods of time, you should sit upright, with your ribcage open and your shoulders relaxed; also, don’t forget to always have appropriate back support, either from your chair or with added padding.
For some of us exercise is a time to be in our own element, use the time to review the day and take mental notes; for others, exercise is a chore that must be scheduled and maintained. It may be easy to make excuses to exercise later because of the rain, or the kids, or (enter reason here). But we must remind ourselves that the muscles in our abs and back play an integral role in supporting the lower spine. It can be as easy as sitting upright on an exercise ball for half an hour, or taking a 20-minute break and doing some bare exercises from your favourite YouTube channel.
Yoga and Pilates are both good methods for people of all ages and sizes to not only learn to properly stretch and build muscles but also to take some time to go within your body; usually, reducing the stress we hold in our muscles and intestines. Finding the right combination is key to living a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle. In addition, try to do your morning and evening stretches as consistently as possible.
5. Cold and Hot Therapy
Regular application of a cold pack or heat several times a week can significantly aid in the reduction of inflammation. Additionally, a combination of hot and cold will relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area. Just make sure to always have at least one layer between your skin and the cold or hot pack/wrap you are using. Another tip is taking a bath with Epson salts (magnesium sulphate); 2 to 3 times a week for 20 – 30 mins has shown to promote full-body relaxation leading to more restful and restorative sleep; especially, if done before going to bed.
Massage or hands-on therapy can be beneficial on many fronts. You are able to have the specific area of pain manipulated and pressure released to feel relief, which over time improves the level of pain along with function for those of us with chronic lower back pain. As well, this type of therapy aids with decreasing stress and anxiety while increasing blood flow to the muscles, again helping with your overall health.
It has been said time and time again, “You are what you eat!” Some of you may chuckle, but it really does have merit. There are many foods that on the one hand, provide vital nutrients; however, on the other hand, promote inflammation. These foods include Gluten, processed foods, some dairy and nightshade vegetables. Moderation and variety are two ways to keep on top of things; too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!
8. Proper Footwear
Again, something that seems so logical, can be easily overlooked. Proper supportive footwear inside and outside the house is essential to reducing lower back pain. If you are going to spend a bit of money, this is an important place to invest. Many clients in Abbotsford have come in wondering why even with physio they continue to have lower back pain. When we asked them if they wear supportive footwear in the house, most of our clients were shocked to not have thought of it before. Especially in our current global climate, many more of us are staying home, working, cooking, cleaning more and more often. We may not have had such a strong need in the past, but consider your current daily activities and plan your footwear accordingly.
9. Talk Therapy and Meditation
It may sound odd to see a councillor or psychologist to treat back pain. However, multiple studies have shown that cognitive-behavioural therapy has a very positive impact in both the short and long term in regards to helping chronic back pain. With professional guidance, you may be able to better understand your relationship with exercise, increasing your desire and confidence to be more active. It has been reported that many patients have notable reductions in pain and disability through talk therapy as well as mindful meditation.
Luckily, medical technology over the past couple of decades has really evolved and developed to a point where a multitude of symptoms can be reduced and diminished to nothing with a small pill. However, when taking medications for pain, make sure to keep open communication with your doctor. Medication can be a great temporary fix, but if you do not figure out the root of the problem it may lead to further health complications in the end.
Noel graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences in Nasik, India in 2005 and completed his Masters in Sports Therapy at Leeds Met University in the UK in 2009. He treats his patients with dignity and respect and encourages a return to activity through exercise and education. Noel is married and has a young family which he enjoys spending time with.