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Take Charge to Lessen Lower Back Pain

Updated on September 14, 2016
Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe had dealt with her lower back pain by lessening it with exercising, new sneakers, and doing yoga at the gym.

Healing Ways

Last fall, I've mentioned about my bout of back pain and the recent flare-up I've had. I've mentioned some helpful ways on walking and sleep that can help kick the back pain the curb. We all know, physical therapy is expensive, when your health insurance helped paid for it. But it can be beneficial in the long run. If you continue to experience back pain, you should see your doctor. In return, she might refer you to a neurologist who can help you out with your back pain with some suggestions.

My neurologist recommended therapy and cortisone shots last year and the year before. I haven't done the shots, since I didn't need them. But this alternative medicine to do once a month might be something to consider and should be less than expensive than therapy or needing back surgery. I'll be back to my neurologist next month for my six-month check-up. Since October, my back pain slowly went down a notch or two, though it may never be back to normal at zero. Right now, it's about a 1.5, which was the same in 2013 when I finished the first round of therapy sessions. Besides aspirin and rest, walking and exercising helped my posture and my back, twofold.

Take a Walk

One of the things that helped get the healing ball rolling for my back was walking in my new sneakers. It's the easiest low-impact exercise you can do. After I moved, and when I started going to the gym, I experienced back pain. But to walk downtown for 20 minutes both ways, and to the gym for 10-15 minutes, both ways, it took me longer to walk. But as I crossed the street to the next sidewalk, I straightened out my back and my posture to walk in a straight line. Within time, I haven't experienced the problem again.

If you live close by to the library, a restaurant, or downtown, and if the weather's good, take a walk and put on your walking shoes or sneakers. Just by taking a slow walk would help kink out the aches in no time. Pretty soon, you've straightened out your posture and walking great. If you're a member at your gym, if they have an indoor track, take a lap or two for good exercise. Within time, you'll pick up speed to a brisk walk and maybe to a smooth job.

During the winter, you can walk up and down your hallway of your home and your apartment building. I did that in my former building, after my heart surgery in 2012 and continued to do so, up until last spring. In my next apartment, I have an outdoor walkway, which I'm going to pass, since it's a bit narrow for foot traffic. But your own hallway would be another great alternative to walk you up as well. If you want some company, grab a buddy to walk with you, too!

Swimming can be your back's best friend to help relieve back pain and being active

Go for a Swim

If you love to swim, going for a swim is another excellent low-impact exercise you can do to lessen your back pain. Whether you're an experienced swimmer or do it for fun at your leisure, you can do a half-lap or a lap around the pool in any stroke. That's what I do at my gym, after I do my post-aquatic physical therapy home exercise program, twice a week, for ten minutes. After your workout, you can float on your back to rest your body. If you don't have a pool, heated or not heated, you can do it at your neighbor's or friend's pool, or do it at your gym at your own leisurely pace in the lap or leisure pool. Start off in the shallow end, before you do it at the deep end.

Stretches in water aerobics can help lower back pain, especially in a heated pool

Stretch It Out

Another exercise you can do in the pool is water aerobics. If you gym has one sponsored by the National Arthritis Foundation, you can do it once, twice, or five times a week, every weekday. Doing low-impact water aerobics in a heated pool have helped my back feel better every morning. So if you stretch it out from head to toe on doing repetitive stretches per class, your body would feel better later. One note: doing this in a regular swimming pool wouldn't have the same benefits as a heated pool would. So give it some heat! If you gym doesn't have this kind of low-impact water aerobics class, try to find something that's low impact in its place.

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Try Yoga and/or Pilates

Have you considered trying yoga or Pilates? Both of these low-impact classes would help you out with any back pain, just by meditation, breathing, and working your core muscles. For yoga, start with the basic beginning classes and get into the habit of doing yoga at home for practice, and later at the gym. If you continue to do this and excel in later year, you can progress to the next level with harder and flexible exercises. Most yogis I know in my yoga classes prefer this than Pilates. So give it a try. If you want to try simpler classes, give Silver Yoga a try.

As for Pilates, there's more breathing involved than in Yoga. Instead of meditation, you're working your core muscles by doing exercises on the mat and using an apparatus, like the exercise ball, magic circle and resistance band. And since most exercises you're kneeling or on your back, give this a try to see if it's a fit for you. Start with the basic classes and work your way up to the advanced classes. Other classes to try are two fusion classes: Stretch-lates and Yoga-lates. (I'll be trying one of these two classes this spring.)

If you like it, doing pi-yo can double your health benefits in the long run to help your back pain. Some of the exercises are in the same for both classes, too. And in the winter, if you're snowbound, and don't want to go in the snow, you can do them at home, if you have to miss any classes.

Hydrotherapy and Home Remedies

Hydrotherapy can help you back pain at home or at the gym. Or even at both places. Whether you choice to do swimming, water aerobics, or both, you would feel better in no time. Take advantage of going to the sauna at your gym to detox the pain with steam, relax at the hot tub or whirlpool to massage the area with heated water and the jets. Cool down with a shower.

  1. Take a massaged shower or get a massage. At home, if you have a massage spray with an aeration for your showerhead, take a warm or hot shower. If you don't have one, consider in investing in one, which is cheap and easy to install. I love my new apartment's showerhead, when it had five options than one at my former place. If you love getting massage by a friend or loved one, instead of getting an expensive one at a massage parlor, invest on getting a massage pad with heat. With many speeds, you can massage your whole body, head to toe, and feel relaxed, too. Under $100, it would be a great treat for yourself. I had one, until I moved last fall, and loved it.
  2. Give it some heat. If you have a heating pad, just place it on the sore spot for twenty minutes at a time and take a break. If you have a small pad in which you can microwave it for a few seconds, that would work as well.
  3. Put it on ice. An ice pack in any size or a bag of ice can help bring down the inflammation.
  4. Take a pain-reliever. If you need extra relief, take a tablet or two of aspirin or ibuprofen in low dosage, which would be good for your heart, too. At night, consider taking a PM version of Aleve or Advil for example, that would help you sleep better all night.

My lumbar support roll and Therabands from last year's physical therapy sessions

Last resorts

If exercise, hydrotherapy, heat, ice, massage, and aspirin doesn't work, I would suggest going to the doctor about aquatic physical therapy or regular land physical therapy sessions for a month or two. Your insurance would pay for it. If you don't want to do the full sessions, you can get discharged early. Ask them to do a home exercise program you can do at home, between sessions and when you're home. Getting a Theraband to do some stretches would be a good investment and inexpensive to pay.

If you want, you can get IcyHot and invest in Icy Hot Pain Relief products, whether it's patches or creams. Depending on the store, it can range from $5 to $40. I never used them. But you can avoid going to therapy at the same time. Wait until it's on sale and pick up some coupons to save some money.

One last tip: use a lumbar support pillow. You can buy one or make one of your own, if you went online. My physical therapy last summer told me the easiest way to make it with two items you can find at home: a small hand towel and two or three rubber bands. It's really easy to make! Just roll the towel up and bind it with the bands to keep it in place. You can take this on the go, too. So give this a try and help your back immensely without therapy or surgery!

Stay active!

Here's a health update from last month: My neurologist gave me a clean bill of health, since I had minimal back pain. Besides dealing with back pain for 2.5 years with two physical therapy sessions, one aquatic pool therapy session, the home exercise program and the exercises I did at the gym, followed my PI-yo, Water Aerobics, walking, and swimming, it helped me out tremendously. It could work out the same way for you, too, sans the therapy sessions and exercises. Stay active to avoid future occurrences of back pain.


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome Rtalloni. Exercising does work!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for the info and encouragement to keep moving. I need to stick with the exercising and not quit when my back gets better…

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Dianna for your kind words and comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      Back pain keeps one from enjoying life more than any other body pain. I've been there. I find that working it out through gentle exercise and massage is best. You have a winning post here, Kristen.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      NM Lady, good for you. I do yoga too. Good solid advice. Thanks for stopping by.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 2 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Well, written and looks at all kinds of great things to do! I do water walking and yoga and Tai Chi. Just NO twists of any kind! The twists do not hurt when I am doing them but my back hurts when I try to sleep. You can manage your pain on your own.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Jill for sharing and commenting my post. I so agree about you about walking and strength training. It helped my back out last year at the gym.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 2 years ago from United States

      Strength training and walking works for me. The worst thing is inactivity. You have to move! Even though it hurts at first. Good hub! Shared.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Mary, good idea. I do the same thing too. I passed on those cortisone shots. Thanks for your comments and the vote.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      What helps me some is putting a pillow between my knees when I sleep. I am still frustrated by my inability to garden for more than 15 minutes a day and leg pain when I walk too much.

      I had the shots in my back and physical therapy. They both helped immensely (I didn't take the drugs, just used the ice), but I guess I can't put it back the way it was.

      I'm sure this hub will be helpful for a lot of people.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Colin, I have the same lumbar roll too that my therapist told me to do last year. I do have it for occasional flare-ups. Good for you for new chair! Me too! Thanks for your encouraging words and visit!

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      I used a home-made lumbar support for a while (rolled up towel etc) and found it helpful (though not particularly comfortable!) The main thing that helped though, was getting a new office chair at work (an expensive one), as that forced me to sit more upright.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Chris for commenting and visiting my hub. My back pain have been gone for the past two months, except for last week when it acted up. I wouldn't wish back pain on anyone, especially the lower back.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 2 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I myself haven't had to deal with lower back pain (thank goodness) yet, but I know a lot of people in my family have. They say it's one of the most painful sensations you could go through, and that it's often relentless. These are some great tips for those struggling with the pain, and I'm happy to know your condition has improved. Great hub.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're welcome Amanda. After 1.5 years of dealing with back pain, some simple ideas like ice, heat, massage, and walking does help your back out, big time.

    • amanda5577 profile image

      Amanda 2 years ago from Michigan

      I've struggled with back pain ever since I was a child. I found out that treating it like a sports injury, such as with ice or mild heat I was able to alleviate some of the discomfort. I'm glad your article touched on these key points especially because not everyone can afford treatments such as physical therapy. Pain medications are a great option for alleviating discomfort, however they will not treat the source of the problem. Thanks for sharing.