The importance of managing your own low back pain.
Low back pain is the number one reason a person seeks chiropractic care. We see a myriad of low back pain patients each and every day in our office. Often times, their pain is related to nothing more than their activities of daily living or repetitive stress from work related activities.
According to recent studies and surveys, the prevalence of Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain is currently on the rise. In fact, one study showed that 50% of all working Americans have back pain symptoms each year. Another study estimated that 80% of the population will experience some sort of back “problem” at some point in their life. If these studies are accurate, then you likely contribute to one of these statistics and chances are you will experience Low Back Pain in the future. So how do we avoid detrimental low back pain resulting in days or weeks off work?
Before we begin, there are a multitude of underlying causes for low back pain that need more attention and can be dangerous if undiagnosed. I am talking about spinal tumors, infections, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and a host of other nasty disease processes that need the attention of qualified medical professionals to treat and eradicate. So before considering treating your own Low Back Pain, first things first, get a proper diagnosis.
Once we know your back pain is relatively benign, it will likely get placed into a group of diagnoses called musculoskeletal or mechanical low back pain. These would include; disc degeneration, pinched nerves, sciatica, arthritis, bulging discs and other various terms that are commonly mentioned in our examination room. Any Chiropractor, MD, or DO should be able help you differentiate between the two groups. If you fall into the musculoskeletal group (the overwhelming majority do) then a good chiropractic office is probably your best bet for a fast, drug free, comprehensive recovery.
Naturally, most “conditions” or pain symptoms will resolve on their own at some point. With the assistance of conservative treatment, musculoskeletal conditions often resolve faster than when left untreated. However they will likely return. If you sit a desk all day, work at a computer, drive for a living, paint, work construction, clean or work in one of the many professions requiring repetitive mechanical behaviors day after day, your pain will come back. Quitting your job is usually not an option for most people. So what is the answer if you can’t clock out and you can’t quit caring for your children? You need a sound management strategy.
Proper low back exercises and core strengthening can go a long way in reducing the frequency and intensity of your exacerbations. In addition to a proper adjustment, your chiropractor should be giving you exercises for “homework.” Ideally a person/patient would keep up with their low back exercises even after they are out of pain. But the fact is people don’t. This is why pain returns. If we are continually stressing our bodies, without proactively trying to protect them, pain comes back. Here’s where your active participation comes in.
Low Back pain is often the result of weakness within the supporting spinal structures (muscles and ligaments.) How do you strengthen muscles? Exercise!! Being diligent with lower back and core strengthening exercises, whether you’re currently experiencing pain or not, can save you from a low back crisis later.
An easy beginner exercise to start with is the abdominal brace (Link). As you perfect core bracing, advancing your exercises to more challenging sequences is your next step. Click Here for more Examples. Nothing happens overnight. Doing the exercises one time is not going to do you any good, but sticking to it each day, is key. Remember “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
So now you’re doing your daily exercises, but what else can you do to manage low back pain when it flares up? Or why is your back still hurting when you wake up? First check your mattress. If it’s close to a decade old, it’s probably time for a new one. If you “sink” into it when you sit or lay down, it’s probably not supporting your back enough. A general rule for spine health when mattress shopping is “more firm.” And how are you sleeping? Are you a back sleeper or stomach sleeper, or do you prefer your sides? The best position for low back pain, is on your back with a pillow under your knees. If you absolutely can’t sleep on your back, the next best position for low back pain, is on your side with a pillow between your knees.
You now have a couple of tools to help manage your back pain. But what are some things you should NOT do? Click Here for examples of what not to do, to avoid low back pain.
Low Back pain can become a chronic issue if you do not treat it correctly. Being proactive and making minor changes in your daily routine can help you manage back pain on your own. If you are doing all the right things at home and at work, and your low back is still burdening you, you might benefit from a chiropractic adjustment. But using these management strategies is essential in decreasing the frequency and severity of flare ups.
Click Here (Link) to check out our similar blogs on self management of low back pain.
1. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
2. Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71