Finding Relief from Lower Back Pain is Possible
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Finding Relief from Lower Back Pain is Possible

Did you say your back hurts? You’re not alone.

Eight out of ten Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. For some, the pain is a dull, constant ache while others are afflicted with a sharp, drop-you-to-your needs kind of pain that leaves them immobile for hours or even days. Either way, it’s no fun and can significantly impact your quality of life or even your ability to make a living.

Over 100 million US workdays are lost each year due to back pain.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health

The causes of back pain are varied. Among the most common are strained or sprained ligaments that result from poor posture, a fall, inactivity, or lifting something heavy with poor form. In other cases, pain is the result of age-related, degenerative changes to the spine or other medical conditions.

While there’s no sure-fire way to avoid back issues over the course of your life, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of finding yourself in pain (and on the floor).


1. Stretch and strengthen your back

Regular exercise will keep the muscles strong and flexible. If you belong to a gym, consult with a trainer for low-impact, age-appropriate exercises to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. If you work out at home, there are countless online videos and exercises provided by trainers and physical therapist designed to help you safely target different areas of the back.

NOTE: If you experience any pain during a movement, stop and problems, consult your doctor or a physical therapist before continuing with any exercises or stretching.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

Excessive weight puts undue stress on your spine, hips, knees, and feet and can contribute to chronic back pain. Even simple changes to your diet (e.g., skipping one soda a day), can help you lose weight and take pressure off all your joints.

3. If you smoke, quit

Smoking reduces blood flow and limits oxygen and nutrition to the spine. Over time, this can lead to spinal degeneration. Plus, coughing brought on by heavy smoking can lead to strained ligaments.

5. Use good form when heavy lifting

Anyone whose spent an afternoon shoveling snow knows that heavy lifting places a strain on the spine. You can avoid injury by shifting the burden of lifting off your spine and onto your legs by using correct form. The key is to keep your back straight, bend your knees, and then use the power of your legs—not your back—to complete the lift.

6. Switch positions

If you have to sit for long stretches of time, switch positions often. Get up and walk around every 30 minutes or gently stretch your muscles to loosen up tense muscles.

7. Be a side-sleeper

Sleeping on your side with your knees drawn up in a fetal position helps to open the joints in the spine and relieve pressure.

8. Make sure the shoe fits

Poor footwear can increase stress and strain through the spine, and over time, lead to lower back pain. When selecting footwear, look for low-heeled options that offer comfort, stability, and some shock absorption. If you have chronic back pain, you may want to look for shoe stores that specialize in orthopedic footwear and provide fittings.

9. Dine on inflammatory foods

When possible, avoid foods that contribute to inflammation in the body. These include dairy, fried foods, refined sugar, margarine, and other processed foods and meat. Instead, opt for an anti-inflammatory diet, such as tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits.

10. Practice good posture

When standing, stand straight and tall with your shoulders back. Keep your head level and in line with your body. Pull in your abdomen. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Your head should be above your shoulders, and the top of your shoulder should be over the hips.

Rest assured, most patients with back pain do not need surgery and tips, like the ones above, can go a long way to restoring function to your back and bringing relief. However, if you’re experiencing back pain that’s limiting your ability to engage in and enjoy daily living, contact your doctor.

Dr. Joshua Tobe is an anesthesiologist trained in interventional pain management at SVHC’s Interventional Pain and Treatment Center.


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