Five Tips for Treating Lower Back Pain at Home
We’ve all got a lot to worry about these days, and maybe in the big picture a sore back isn’t our number one concern. But when you add lower back pain onto all the other stresses we’re feeling, well, it could just be the straw that breaks the camel’s … you know.
And if there’s something we can do about it? Among all the problems we can’t solve, if there’s something we can do to make our spines feel just a bit better? Then by all means, let’s do it!
Is Your Posture to Blame?
I mean, sure, we’re all feeling pretty beat down right now. We’re shuffling around, shoulder’s hunched, head forward, eyes glued to our cellphones, just waiting for the next blow. Can improving your posture help to resolve lower back pain?
Maybe? There’s a long list of things that could be “wrong” with the way you carry yourself. There’s forward head, elevated shoulder, rounded shoulder, hunched back, anterior pelvic tilt, pigeon toes, and duck feet, to name a few. Any of these things could be contributing to lower back pain, or causing part of a chain reaction in the body that affects the lower back in some way. But there’s also a counterpoint argument that says these problems might be just compensations for pain, rather than the cause: we don’t hurt because we hold our bodies like that; we hold our bodies like that because we hurt.
One way or another, though, the experts on both sides of the debate agree on one thing: exercise is one of the best ways to address the problem of both pain and poor posture.
Traditional Treatment Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be
In the recent past, treating lower back pain has generally revolved around combinations of three methods: opioid painkillers, surgery, and steroid injections. We all should know by now how bad the opioid drugs are. Not only are they highly addictive, they’re not even particularly effective when compared with traditional non-opioid medications, and can in fact even make the pain worse in the long run. Likewise, surgery for nonspecific lower back pain has shown no meaningful improvement over non-surgical treatment. And although steroid injections can improve pain slightly in the short term, the effects wear off without leading to long-term improvements.
So what does work? Options you might want to try include simple exercises, yoga, Tai chi, and Pilates. A physical therapist who specializes in lower back pain could also be the miracle we’re looking for—better certainly than an opioid addiction or an unnecessary surgery, which is the last thing any of us need right now.
Your First Line of Defense Against Back Pain
Of course the best way to avoid back pain is not to injure your back in the first place. Back pain that occurs “suddenly” is often the result of many years of microinjuries that one day decide to say “enough is enough” — again with that camel’s back.
If you want to avoid injury in the first place, start now by learning how to bend and lift properly, and always be a little paranoid about movements that you know aren’t wise.
Here are the basics: Lift with your legs. Learn to do a hip hinge. Learn to do a proper deadlift. The video below explains it well.
Most importantly, once you’ve learned these techniques, use them regularly — even if you’re just bending over to pick up a piece of paper from the floor! Remember, it’s the accumulation of mistakes that get you in the end, and that piece of paper could be the one that gets you.
DIY Lower Back Pain Exercises
As already mentioned, exercise is one of the best things you can do to help relieve your lower back pain. Stretches for lower back pain are key, but so is core strengthening and even basic aerobic exercise. Gone are the days when your doctor would advise bed rest for back pain (note: We are not doctors, and we can’t speak to your specific condition. Always follow the advice of your doctor before something you find on the Internet.)
Exercises you can try (examples here) include:
- Stretches: cat-cow; lower back flexion; cobra pose; supine trunk twist stretch; supine hamstring stretch
- Core strength: posterior pelvic tilt contraction; bent knee leg raise; crunch; leg raise with exercise ball; leg raise and crunch with exercise ball; bridge pose; side plank
- Aerobic exercise: walk, bike swim
Remember, only do the exercises that feel good. If you feel pain, back off and do something else.
Our Five Tips for Treating Lower Back Pain
And so finally, in summary, here are our tips for treating lower back pain:
- Don’t injure your back in the first place. Learn to bend and lift safely and properly, then practice what you’ve learned regularly.
- Exercise. Not only will exercise help ease your back pain, staying strong will help prevent pain from occurring or reoccurring. Your exercises don’t need to be extreme, but it’s best to have a well-rounded balance of stretching, strengthening, and cardio workouts.
- Find a specialist. If your back pain persists, or if it’s already too burdensome, a physical therapist or doctor who specializes in a more holistic, non-surgical way of treating the back is the best place to start.
- Trust your doctor, but maybe seek a second opinion if their first suggestion is to send you to surgery or prescribe opioids for the pain.
- Avoid the opioids.