Last week I talked about different ways to deal with knee pain, so this week I thought I would share 8 steps to treating your back on your own.
‘In Canada, medical expenditures with respect to low back pain are estimated between $6 and $12 billion annually. Low back pain and related ailments have a significant economic impact on society due to the loss in worker productivity, resultant time off work, and the associated disability payments (Brown et al 2005).’ http://backcarecanada.ca/health-professionals/
Nearly 80% of the population will have back issues at some point in our life. That pain can stem from various sources. It could be from a strenuous activity like gardening, shoveling, or weight lifting; maybe you were involved in an accident that caused an injury; or it could simply be from our muscles becoming weak and unbalanced from not enough exercise. The causes may be different but no matter what, the outcome is the same. You aren’t moving around like you used to and you are uncomfortable to say the least.
Lower back pain is extremely common, the symptoms and severity of lower back pain can vary greatly. A simple lower back muscle strain might be excruciating enough to necessitate an emergency room visit, while a degenerating disc might cause only mild, intermittent discomfort. Identifying the symptoms, along with an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of the pain, is the first step in obtaining effective pain relief.
Last week, when I talked about knee pain I talked about how our joints are in a chain. Some joints need to be stable and others need to be mobile and they alternate all the way up the body. Our hips need to be mobile, our lower back needs to be stable, our thoracic spine is mobile, and so on. If your muscles are doing their job properly, everything works the way they are supposed to and you will be pain free. When we are in pain, something isn’t doing its job. If you haven’t done it already, the first thing you should do is see a professional and get an assessment. They will be able to let you know where your starting point is.
So many of our back issues can be prevented, or at least treated, by keeping our bodies strong.
8 Steps for treating your back pain
1. Rehydrate your body. One of the first things to look at is whether you are hydrated enough. The discs in our spine consist of 10-20 fibrous annulus rings around jelly-like nucleus centre. Those discs consist of 80% water. If our bodies are dehydrated, we are stiff, less mobile, and the discs can become inflamed more easily.
2. Stretch tight muscles. Increase flexibility by stretching your hip and leg muscles like your hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors (inner thighs), and the lower back muscles like your extensors, flexors, and obliques. That sounds like a whole lot of muscles but they make up your mid to lower back and your legs.
3. SMR – Foam Rolling. If you can get yourself a foam roller, you can do some Self Myofascial Release – SMR. Here are some great techniques. At first you will hate it but you will quickly fall in love with how you feel after. It’s giving yourself a massage to get rid of those persistent knots whenever you want.
4. Strengthen weak muscles. Strengthen your glutes and quads by doing wall sits, bridge variations, squats, and lunges
5. Build all core muscles. Having a strong foundation by building your entire core is incredibly important. You can do that by doing different exercises like the bird dog, dead bug, pelvic tilt, press-up back extensions, plank, and mountain climbers, just to name a few. With a strong core you will have a stable lower back.
6. Get walking. It gets you out of a sitting posture and your body in a neutral, upright position. After an injury, you should have no more than 3 days of bed rest.
7. Get supported. Make sure you have support under your neck when sleeping. Some people need a pillow between their knees to keep their body in a neutral position. You spend about a third of your life sleeping. One of the best ways to protect your back is with a good mattress and sleep positions that support it.
8. Maintain a Healthy Weight. ‘Obesity is a contributing factor to back pain. Being overweight or obese can significantly contribute to symptoms associated with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), degenerative disc disease (DDD), spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis. The spine is designed to carry the body’s weight and distribute the loads encountered during rest and activity. When excess weight is carried, the spine is forced to assimilate the burden, which may lead to structural compromise and damage (e.g., injury, sciatica).’ http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/back-pain/back-pain-obesity
In short, increasing flexibility, staying active, and strengthening your muscles will decrease imbalances and get your body moving and performing the way it should be pain free.