9 Easy Ways to Relieve the Misery That Is Lower Back Pain

woman with lower back painThe struggle of back pain is very real -- and super-prevalent. It afflicts 8 out of 10 people and can strike at ANY point during your life. Sometimes it's due to a muscle sprain or herniated disc in your spine. Or it can be brought on by a fall or car accident. But the most common cause of back pain?


Over-using your muscles  -- like lifting a bookshelf all by yourself or hunching over your garden on a Saturday for hours on end.

Unfortunately, all those gentle gizmos and fast fixes you hear about or see advertised probably aren't going to relieve your back pain. But according to the experts, here's what will.

1. Get hot and cold. "For the first 72 hours [after pain starts], use ice for 20 minutes on and 30 minutes off to decrease inflammation," suggests Scott Schreiber, DC, a chiropractic physician in Newark, Delaware, who is board certified in both rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. "After that, use heat for the same interval. This will reduce muscle spasms and soothe the affected area."

2. Get moving. Researchers in Australia scrutinized 21 studies from around the world that investigated back pain treatment and prevention. Their conclusion: Exercise is the best solution. Whether it's Pilates, yoga, or a cardio class at the gym, getting -- and staying -- active reduces your risk of lower back pain by as much as 40 percent.

3. Skip soft furniture. Have a squishy sofa or not-very-supportive desk chair? A harder option is better for your back. But if that's not possible, "sit with a pillow, preferably a McKenzie roll," Schreiber suggests. (That's a D-shaped roll you place behind you, which promotes alignment of your spine.)

4. Stretch your hamstrings. "Often, lower back issues are related to tightness through the back of the legs," says Stephanie Mazzanti, CPC, E-RYT 200, a mind-body therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Illinois. That's because tight hamstrings put pressure on your lower back and SI joint, which leads to ... ouch. Loosen 'em up at least twice a day.

4. Pay attention to your posture. "Almost always, lower back pain has a postural component," Schreiber says. "Avoid slouching and use a lumbar roll when sitting or driving." (And steer clear of any twisting or bending, since this will only aggravate your pain.)

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5. Bring movement to your lower back. Lie on your stomach, propped onto your elbows. "This may cause soreness initially, but the pain will dull," Schreiber assures. If you can, assume a push-up condition and fully extend your arms, lifting your body while attempting to keep your waist on the ground. Try for 10 reps, suggests Schreiber.

6. Stop sitting so much. Sitting for long periods of time weaken your core and glutes, and also cause your hip flexors to shorten, which strains your lower back, says Mazzanti. Get up frequently and move around. If your long hours are due to work, look into a standing desk.

7. Supplement your healing. Some anti-inflammatory supplements that help with lower back pain: bromelain, quercetin, turmeric, and ginger, Schrieber says. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements though, since even natural supplements may interact with medicines you're already on.

8. Lose the high heels. Don't strut around in three-inch boots when you've got back pain. You gotta trade 'em in for shoes with low heels (less than an inch). While higher heels look awesome, they throw off your posture and put pressure on your lower spine.

9. Shift your weight. When you're handling groceries, lifting your baby, or putting things into or out of your car, practice staggered step foot positioning to protect your back. "It looks similar to the movements of a boxer," explains Joe L'Abbe, PT, a physical therapist at CTCA at Midwestern. While partially squeezing your ab muscles, shift your weight from foot to foot, bending at the hips, knees, and ankles rather than the spine. Oh, and remember to BREATHE.



Image via Dirima/Shutterstock

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