Finding solutions for your aching back
This blog shares the steps and strategies men and women just like you are using to successfully and permanently overcome and eliminate back pain.
Most low back pain goes away on its own in two to four weeks.
Your doctor will examine your back and assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs. Your doctor might also ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and talk to you about how well you’re functioning with your pain.
These assessments help determine where the pain comes from, how much you can move before pain forces you to stop and whether you have muscle spasms. They can also help rule out more-serious causes of back pain.
Most acute back pain gets better with a few weeks of home treatment. However, everyone is different, and back pain is a complex condition
Depending on the type of back pain you have, your doctor might recommend the following:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), might relieve acute back pain. Take these medications only as directed by your doctor. Overuse can cause serious side effects. If OTC pain relievers don’t relieve your pain, your doctor might suggest prescription NSAIDs.
- Muscle relaxants. If mild to moderate back pain doesn’t improve with OTC pain relievers, your doctor might also prescribe a muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants can make you dizzy and sleepy.
- Topical pain relievers. These are creams, salves or ointments you rub into your skin at the site of your pain.
- Narcotics. Drugs containing opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, may be used for a short time with close supervision by your doctor. Opioids don’t work well for chronic pain, so your prescription will usually provide less than a week’s worth of pills.
- Antidepressants. Low doses of certain types of antidepressants — particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline — have been shown to relieve some types of chronic back pain independent of their effect on depression.
- Injections. If other measures don’t relieve your pain, and if your pain radiates down your leg, your doctor may inject cortisone — an anti-inflammatory medication — or numbing medication into the space around your spinal cord (epidural space). A cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, but the pain relief usually lasts less than a few months.
Physical therapy and exercise
A physical therapist can apply a variety of treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques, to your back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain.
As pain improves, the therapist can teach you exercises to increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture. Regular use of these techniques can help keep pain from returning.
10 daily habits to stop back pain
Although determining the cause of back pain can be complicated, there are many different actions you can take to help alleviate your back pain or prevent it from getting worse. It’s all about relieving pressure, reducing strain, protecting your spine, and strengthening your muscles. Changing a few daily habits can help you maintain a healthy, pain-free back for a long time.
Sleeping on your back puts pressure on your spine. Elevating your legs slightly relieves this pressure on your back as you sleep. You can cut that pressure in half by placing a pillow under your knees.
The numerous health benefits of exercise are well-known. A regular strength-training routine that focuses on your core muscles can help reduce your risk of back-related injuries, such as strains and muscle spasms. Try incorporating back and abdominal strengthening exercises into your workout at least two times per week to develop a stronger, more flexible back.
Strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis. It’s one of the most common causes of back pain later in life, particularly for women. Keep the bones in your spine strong by consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:
- leafy greens
- vitamin supplements
Vitamin D is in:
- fatty fish
- egg yolks
- beef liver
Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes to prevent back pain. They reduce the strain on your back while standing. Shoes with less than a 1-inch heel are the best bet for your back.
Good posture isn’t just a way to look more proper. It protects the intricate pieces of your spine to keep them healthy and functioning properly. Bad posture puts strain and stress on your back and can change the architecture of your spine. Avoid rounding your shoulders, slouching, or bending sideways when standing.
When sitting in an office chair, use the same good posture techniques you use when standing. It’s critical to keep good posture and support your back when sitting down, especially if you do it for several hours per day. Choose a quality chair that provides firm support for your lower back, and make sure your knees are a little higher than your hips when you sit.ADVERTISEMENT
Whether you’re at an office party or a bar for happy hour, avoid sitting in an awkward position or standing in one place. Move around the room to avoid putting pressure on your spine, which can happen if you stand in one place for too long.
We all know smoking is a serious health risk, and smokers are also more likely to experience back pain than nonsmokers. One reason for this is that nicotine restricts blood flow to the disks in the spine. This can cause them to dry out, crack, or rupture. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which causes a reduction in nourishment to the muscles and tendons in the back. An unhealthy, weak back is more vulnerable to accidental strains and pulls that cause back pain.
Lighten your load
Improper or heavy lifting is a common cause of back pain, but it doesn’t only happen to people who lift heavy boxes on the job. Carrying a bulky laptop bag, suitcase, camera, or a load of groceries can also cause a strain on your back. Whenever possible, take some weight off your shoulders by carrying less, distributing the weight to both sides of your body, or shifting the weight from shoulder to shoulder. Consider using a rolling cart or bag with wheels for heavier loads like bags of groceries or boxes of files.
Standing, sitting, or lying down in one place for an extended amount of time isn’t healthy for your back. Relieve the strain of the day whenever you can by getting up, walking around, and doing some simple stretches. This will help improve circulation to your back. It can also ease any strains or aches that occur due to inactivity . HEALTH LINE Challenges Curious about mindful eating? We can give you a taste.
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11 Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief
Maybe you’ve been resting, hoping the back pain just needs time to heal. But most doctors now encourage lower back pain sufferers to get active and move their backs and related muscles as a better pain relief treatment.
Movement can help relieve back pain, but only the right kind; avoid workouts that put too much stress and strain on the back. So which exercises should you choose?
The Toe Touches:
Fitness is often a great treatment for back pain, but some movements offer you little health benefit. Toe touches from a standing position can aggravate sciatica and other conditions by overstretching ligaments and spinal disks. Another cause for concern is the way standing toe touches can overstretch hamstrings and muscles in your lower back.
One of the classic core-strengthening workouts is the partial stomach crunch. Partial crunches build strength in both your lower back and related stomach muscles, making this an ideal exercise for people with spondylosis.
Here’s how to get the most out of partial crunches:
- Lie back, and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent.
- With your hands behind your head or with arms crossed around your chest, raise your shoulders from the floor. Make sure to keep your stomach muscles tight.
- Breath out while raising your shoulders. Avoid leading with your elbows (or yanking your neck off the floor with your arms).
- Hold for one second. Next, lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled manner.
- Repeat with between eight and 12 repetitions. Remember to follow proper form, which prevents excessive spine stress. Keep your feet, tailbone, and lower back against the floor throughout the exercise.
Sit-ups are a fitness standard, but they’re not as good at strengthening your core as you may think.
Although most people see sit-ups as a stomach-strengthening activity, in reality people often use their hip muscles more than their stomachs when doing this exercise.
Not only are they a poor choice for core strength, but sit-ups create pressure on spinal disks, which can lead to injury by increasing your lower back pain rather than lowering it. To maintain good health and improve low back pain, try more suitable workouts like the ones outlined further on.
Hamstring stretches relieve the back of the leg, where some of the muscles that support the work of the lower spine are found. As shown in the photo, this is a stretch that benefits from the use of a towel or fitness band.
To perform a hamstring stretch, follow these steps:
- First, lie on your back with one knee bent.
- Next, thread a towel beneath the ball of the foot on the unbent leg.
- Pull back on the towel slowly, straightening your knee. You ought to feel a gentle stretch along the back of your leg.
- Hold the stretch for at least 15-30 seconds.
- For each leg, repeat 5 times.
Once in a while, leg lifts are suggested as useful treatments for lower back pain. That’s because they help strengthen abdominal muscles, which play an important part in back health. Unfortunately, lying on your back and lifting both legs together can worsen back pain.
Instead of relying on leg lifts for better spine health, try this modified leg lift for lower back pain:
- First, lie on your back. Leave one leg straight, and bend the other leg at the knee.
- Next, lift the straight leg slowly up about six inches from the ground and briefly hold it in this position.
- Finally, slowly lower the leg.
- Repeat 10 times with the left leg, then switch to the right leg
Wall Sits :
When it comes to low back pain, try some wall sits as a break from sitting on the couch. To do these wall sits properly and without injury, follow these steps:
- Stand with your back facing the wall at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches.
- Carefully lean into the wall until your spine is flat against it.
- Slide down the wall slowly until your knees are bent slightly. Continue to press your low back into the wall.
- Hold this position for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Press-up Back Extensions:
Another treatment for back pain symptoms is the press-up back extension. Here are the steps:
- Lie on your stomach. Position your hands directly underneath your shoulders.
- Push down on your hands. You should feel your shoulders begin to lift away from the floor.
- If you can do so comfortably, set your elbows on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Then spend several seconds holding this position.
Bird Dog :
It’s a bird! It’s a dog! No, it’s a fitness routine to ease low back pain! The bird dog is a great way to learn to stabilize the low back during movements of the arms and legs. Here’s how it is done:
- To begin, get on your hands and knees.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles.
- With one leg, lift and extend it behind you while keeping your hips level.
- Hold that position for a full five seconds.
- Now switch to the other leg.
- For each leg, repeat eight to 12 times. For an added challenge, try lengthening the time you hold each lift.
- For each repetition, try lifting and extending your opposite arm in front of you.
- Don’t allow your lower back muscles to sag.
- Stay in position—don’t lift your arms or legs any higher than the low back position can maintain.
Knee to Chest :
Here’s another way to get your legs pumping as a treatment for low back pain symptoms. Follow these directions to perform a safe knee-to-chest workout..
- Lie on your back. Put your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees.
- Draw your right knee up to your chest. Keep the left foot flat against the floor.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds. Meanwhile, be sure to keep your lower back flat on the floor.
- Next, lower your right knee. Repeat the routine with the left leg.
- For each leg, perform knee-to-chest two to four times.
Pelvic Tilts :
Before back pain has you writhing on the floor with the usual symptoms, try lying on your back for some pelvic tilts. This workout is designed to strengthen your pelvis, which often works in concert with the core muscles along your spine. Making sure your abdomen can pull its fair share means your spine pain will have one less possible cause.
- Lie with your back and upper body on the floor with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Pull in your stomach. Imagining your belly button is being pulled toward your backbone—this helps keep your stomach tight. Doing this, you will notice your hips rocking back as your back and spine press into the floor.
- Hold this movement for 10 seconds, allowing your breath to smoothly enter and exit your chest.
- Repeat your pelvic tilts eight to 12 times.
Glute Bridges (Bridging) :
Bridging offers so much for the symptoms of back pain. This exercise helps strengthen various supporting players for your back like the hamstrings, glutes, transverse abdominis, abdomen and hips. It also works directly to strengthen the lower back. Follow these steps to assure a safe and rewarding bridge workout:
- Lie with your back to the floor, knees bent with only your heels touching the floor.
- Dig your heels into the floor. Squeeze down on your glutes. Lift your hips up until your shoulders, hips, and knees make a single, straight line.
- Hold this position for about six seconds.
- Slowly bring your hips back to the floor and give yourself about 10 seconds of rest.
- Repeat bridges eight to 12 times.
There are a couple of things to remember when bridging. First, try not to arch your lower back while your hips are moving upward. Next, avoid overarching. You can do that by keeping your abdomen tight both before and throughout the lift.
Carefully Choose a Weight Lifting Regimen :
If properly done, weight lifting will not exacerbate your back pain. In fact, you may feel that pain start to melt away as weight lifting begins to strengthen your lower back and supporting body parts.
However, when your back pain comes on suddenly (what doctors call acute pain), the additional stress of weight training could put you in harm’s way, potentially leading to injury. To use weight lifting as a back-pain treatment, start by talking to your doctor. Your doctor can advise you on whether or not to lift weights. If they are recommended, your physician can advise you on which workouts to stay away from.
Aerobic Exercises :
Aerobic workouts—sometimes called cardio—help strengthen the whole cardiovascular system, from the lungs and heart down to the blood vessels themselves. Aerobics can include biking, swimming, walking, or many other exercises that elevate your heart rate and get you moving. To start, try a short session. Then over time, lengthen the session as your stamina improves.
Since back pain sometimes requires special care, try swimming as a treatment for your symptoms. In swimming, the water supports your body weight, giving your back a break. Be careful to avoid any strokes that require your body to twist.
Some Pilates :
A routine that incorporates strengthening and stretching with a focus on the abdominal core sounds ideal for those who suffer from back pain symptoms. Pilates is a training workout that sometimes uses an apparatus called a Reformer to emphasize flexibility and endurance along with strength. But many Pilates exercises can be performed without any special equipment.
With help from an experienced instructor, Pilates may help some people with low back pain. Make sure your instructor knows about your pain ahead of time, as you may need to skip some moves.