How to never feel low back pain (again!)

Have you ever happened to feel this pain in the area of the lower back? Well you are not alone. One thing is for sure: whether it is a constant dull feeling or a sharp sudden pain, it is not okay. In fact, this is pretty common and if you felt it only once, you can consider yourself lucky. A study shows that around 80% of adults experience it at least once throughout their life.[1] The prevalence of low back pain was highest in Western Europe (15%), followed by North America. [2] Read below to find it out how this pain comes about and what to do to eliminate and/or prevent it…

Reasons for lower back pain

The reasons for lower back pain are not perfectly clear. There are some common factors among the people who
experience it (so almost everybody!).  Such factors are life stress, obesity, improper posture, sedentary lifestyle, occupation that requires excessive heavy lifting of objects, anxiety. These all can be the cause or contributing factors.

Do you need to worry about it?

Once you feel the pain, you do not necessarily need to start pulling your hair. Here is how to define whether you need a professional help:

  • Acute low back pain
    This means your pain is short term and will last from a couple of days up to two to three weeks. You can manage this one with self-care and it will be resolved by itself. After the pain is gone, you should not experience any loss in function, as if that it never was there. This kind of pain is mechanical, which means the components of the lower back – disks, spine, muscle, nerves – are not fitting perfectly together for a moment until it all falls back into place
  • Sub-acute low back pain
    Takes longer time till it heals – from 4 to 12 weeks
  • Chronic low back pain
    If the pain continues for more than 12 weeks, this is chronic low back pain and you certainly need to turn to professional for help. Around 20 percent of the cases of acute low back pain turn into chronic back pain.

How to eliminate it once you have it

There are different kinds of treatments, depending on whether the pain is acute or chronic. Here are some common ones:

  • Hot or cold packs – these do not eliminate the pain in the long term, but are helpful for momentary relieve
  • Movement – you may feel like staying in bed, but in fact, the exclusion of movement is the worst thing that you can do for your back. Some studies suggest that staying in your bed may lead to worsening the condition and causing even depression, blood clots in the legs and weakening of the muscles. Keep on with your daily activities and make sure to be actively moving on a daily basis. Include soft stretching exercises in your daily routine.
  • Physiotherapy – in some cases physiotherapy can be beneficial, especially in combination with movement

How to prevent it (important!!)

  • Proper standing posture – stand properly and don’t slouch. Keep your weight equally on both of your feet, do not lean on one or another, and make sure your shoulders on the same height. Maintain your abdominals tight and make sure your hips are not sticking out. Lessen the curve at the lower back by bringing the tailbone in.
  • Proper sitting posture – make sure that all furniture and equipment you use at your work is adjusted according to your height. Maintain your spine straight also while you are sitting. Have a good lumber support – either from the chair itself or get a comfortable pillow.
  • Picking up/lifting objects – maintain straight back and engage the abdominals when you are picking up or lifting heavy objects. Bend your knees and do not twist if the objects are very heavy.
  • Stretching before and after exercise – when you exercise, make sure to stretch the whole body prior to exercising, even before the regular 5-10 min cardio warm up. Stretch the whole body to make sure that all connected muscles have been warmed up. Otherwise, the lower back might need to compensate for tension or weakness somewhere else and this will cause more stress. Stretching after exercise helps relax the muscles after being constantly contracted during the exercise.new-food-pyramid-1000x1113
  • Maintain proper weight through nutrition – gaining weight puts pressure on your joints, bones and muscles. With good nutrition, maintain appropriate weight. Avoid processed and semi-processed food. Eat less fat containing products and red meat.  Focus on lean protein and always add vegetables to your meal.
  • Core strengthening exercises – to prevent pain in the low back (again), you need to have supporting abdominals in the front for balance. Otherwise, all the stress will be taken by the back. Strong abdominal musculature increases the intraabdominal pressure, protecting the spine and keeping it straight. If you wonder what are the best exercises to do, go for pilates. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and probably there are group classes somewhere in your neighborhood.
  • Decrease or stop smoking – according to experts [1], smoking decreases the blood flow towards your lumber spine and is a risk factor in the development of osteoporosis.

References:

[1] http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm
[2] http://consumer.healthday.com/bone-and-joint-information-4/backache-news-53/low-back-pain-leading-cause-of-disability-worldwide-study-686113.html

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