Living With Low Back Pain
If you've ever suffered from lower back pain, you're one of around 65 million Americans who do. In other words, you are not alone.
I am one of those 65 million, and while I have visited a chiropractor for various back and neck ailments for most of my life, my chronic low back pain reared its ugly head about three years ago when an MRI determined that I have a degenerative disc. The culprit? No one has really confirmed that, but doctors have said it is likely the pounding my body took from running long distances for over a decade, or from sitting in an office chair every day for 10 hours or more. Family genetics play a part as well, as does not stretching and strengthening back and abdominal muscles properly or at all. But I've learned to manage the pain, and I've done that several ways. If you have lower back pain, here are some tips to help you deal with it.
1. Visit a chiropractor--Some people think chiropractors are hokey witch doctors. They are in fact doctors, and they can be very beneficial to those with back pain. In many cases, they will not make the pain go away, but there is no single source that will help you manage that pain better than a chiropractor. By manipulating your spine with regular adjustments, chiropractic is safe, easy and painless. And you usually feel incredible after every session. For more information, here is a link to my doctor's website.
2. Take over the counter pain medication--If your pain is chronic, you may need more than the regular dosage, but the impact of Advil, Tylenol or aspirin is very good at combating the inflammation related to low back pain. But keep in mind that too much of those medications can have side effects. The best bet is to ask your doctor what they suggest.
3. Physical therapy--Stretching properly, sometimes as often as every hour, can be extremely helpful. See if your doctor can prescribe physical therapy, provided your health insurance covers it, because it can be pricey. Or try these exercises.
4. Strengthening your muscles--I work out at a gym, and it's definitely best to maintain a healthy level of physical activity, so long as you are not being counterproductive with your back pain. Since I can't run anymore, I found that lower impact aerobics like on an elliptical machine or cross-trainer works well. Then, on alternating days, I work on strengthening my legs, core and abdominal muscles to ease the strain on my lower back. If you can afford a personal trainer to get you on the right program, I highly suggest this.
5. Lose weight--Nothing will accelerate lower back pain more than putting weight on your midsection. Along with a weight loss plan, I recommend a low carbohydrate diet, like the South Beach Diet. I like it because it's easy to follow and it works. But again, check with your doctor before trying a diet plan like this, or find one that is best for your own needs.
6. Set up your office properly--If you work an office job, or from a desk as I do every day, the strain from sitting for long periods of time is brutal on your lower back. Stores like Relax the Back have great products like seat cushions, chair lifts, mattresses and ice packs.
7. Ice and heat--You can get a cheap ice pack from your local drug store, or even at Target or your grocery store. Some of them double as heat packs, but I've found those Therma-Care heat wraps are easy to use and really effective.
8. Walking--This might fall under the exercise category, but I've found that walking takes the pressure off of my lower back, and also takes my mind off the lingering aches.
9. Pain relief patches--My favorite brand of pain relief patches is Salon Pas. I put these one 3-4 nights a week before bed and leave them on all night. You'll want to make sure these do not irriate your skin, but if not then this is a great product. They also make different sizes depending on the scope of your pain.
10. Baths--Hot baths are incredibly effective for lower back pain, and cost very little.
11. Massage--Along with chiropractic treatment, massages help to loosen the sore muscles that are related to lower back pain. If you can afford it, monthly or even weekly massages are good for body and mind.
12. Acupuncture--I've heard about this working, but I have to admit it didn't work for me. I tried it, but the fact that I hate needles and that some of the needles made me jump because they hit irritated nerves in my lower back soured me on this method. But it may work for you.
Of course, sometimes surgery is necessary to help alleviate lower back pain, but I would only recommend this as a last resort because it can have long-term implications and can be very costly. This is something to discuss with your doctors as well. In fact, keep in mind that I am not a doctor, but rather just someone who, like you, has to deal with back pain every day. It's something that can be managed, but you do have to pay special attention to doing the little things to minimze that pain. I hope these tips helped you, and good luck!