Low Back pain often strikes when something’s out of balance (subluxation) with the delicate column of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments and joints that holds you up.
Obviously subluxation is what we specialise in helping with at Chiropractic Balance Mana and Wellington, but that’s not much help when it’s the middle of the night, when you’re on holiday or the next available appointment is 24 hours or more away.
Here’s our top tips for some immediate relief:
1. ICE First
- Ice for the first 48 hours after onset of back pain (heat later). As a pain reliever, ice works great. It temporarily blocks pain signals and helps reduce swelling. Several times a day, lay an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes. Apply the ice pack as frequently as necessary, later you may still want to use ice after physical activities.
2. MOIST HEAT
- After about 48 hours, switch to moist heat to stimulate blood flow and reduce painful spasms. Dip a towel in very warm water, wring it out, then flatten and fold it. Lie on your stomach with pillows under your hips and ankles. Place the towel across the painful area, cover the towel with plastic wrap, then put a hot water bottle/wheat pack atop the plastic. Leave it on for up to 20 minutes, repeat this 3-4 times a day for several days.
- Stretching serves two main purposes: It loosens up tense muscles and strengthens those that need some help. Depending on the location and cause of your back pain, certain stretches can reduce back pain, while others can cause more pain. Stretching should be gentle, so stop any stretching exercise that causes pain. If you force a stretch, you could do more damage than good.
- Once you get the hang of it, regular stretching can ease back pain quickly and effectively. One of the most effective set of stretches is called the Egoscue Method. The underlying premise is simple: you’re experiencing pain because of chronic inactivity which weakens certain muscles and tightens others. Here are the stretches you should be doing for low back pain:
A. Static Back
- Lie on your back with both legs bent at right angles on a chair or block
- You can just rest your hands on your stomach or lay your arms out at the side below shoulder level, palms facing up
- Breathe from your stomach. Let the lower back relax. Hold for 5-10 minutes
B. Extension Back
- Kneel with hands on the floor positioned under your shoulders.
- Let your shoulder blades come together, and make sure there is an arch in your back
- Keep the elbows straight but shift your hips forward 15-20cm so they are not aligned with the knees (further forward than this picture).
- Hold 1-2 minutes
Supine Groin Stretch
C. Supine Groin Stretch
- Lie on your back with one leg resting on a chair, knee bent at 90 degrees, while the other leg is extended straight out and resting on the floor
- Make sure both legs are aligned with the hips and shoulders
- The foot of the extended leg should be propped upright to preventing it from rolling to one side
- Hold 10 minutes then do it on the other side
Floor Block Stretch
D. Floor Block Stretch
- Lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor — your feet should be pigeon toed
- Rest your elbows on books or blocks so that your hands are in the “don’t shoot!” position
- Make sure your shoulders are level — breathe deeply and relax the upper body
- Let your bodyweight naturally fall into the floor
- Hold 6 minutes
E. Rise and Shine Stretches
Each morning before you get out of bed, lie on your back and slowly stretch your arms overhead. Gently pull your knees to your chest, one at a time. To rise, roll to the edge of your bed, turn on your side, put your knees over the edge, and use one arm to push yourself up as you let your feet swing to the floor. Once you’re on your feet, put your hands on your buttocks and lean back very slowly to stretch out your spine.
4. Trigger Points
A portion of low back pain is often tension in the musculature. Trigger points are essentially the “origin” points of these pains, and the way to stimulate the relaxation of these points is deep (slightly painful) massage to relax the area. Many people report complete back pain relief after regularly using trigger points throughout the day. Trigger points are a little tricky though because they take some practice to find.
- When you find the point, it should be very tender and painful.
- Apply firm pressure in sliding strokes in one direction, like you’re trying to iron the area. Use your thumb, knuckle, or tennis ball on a 7 of 10 pain scale.
- Do 6 – 12 strokes per trigger point each session (don’t overdo it). Repeat 6-12x a day.
- If you aren’t getting relief you probably aren’t stimulating the right points
Common Trigger points with Low Back Pain:
1. Gluteus medius
2. Quadratus lumborum (Best to use tennis ball)
3. Deep Spinal Muscles (muscles running alongside the entire length your spine) (Use a tennis ball)
5. Stand and Sit Tall
Don’t forget about good posture. If you tend to slouch when you’re sitting or standing, your back muscles may be forced into an unnatural position, causing you pain. Most of us spend a good amount of time sitting down, whether it’s at work or during the commute to and from work. You can minimize the impact by sitting properly. Correct posture in a chair means having all the bones in your spine lined up neatly, like a stack of perfectly aligned blocks. This means keeping your feet flat on the floor and your computer keyboard within easy reach so you’re not leaning forward. Check out The Ultimate “Deskercise” Stretch Routine »
Look for the standing posture that places the least stress on your back. To do it, stand straight with your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Tilt your pelvis forward, then back, exaggerating the movement. Then settle into the position that feels most comfortable. Now “work your way up” your back, focusing on one area at a time. First concentrate on the area near your waist, then your chest area, and finally your neck and shoulders. Try to feel which position is least stressful and most comfortable. This is the position to maintain when you’re standing, walking, and beginning or ending any exercise.
6. Rub in Some Relief
There are some great natural anti-inflammatory creams such as Deep Heat, Bio-Freeze and Anti-Flam that can help reduce inflammation and pain. The effectiveness of these balms can vary from user to user, so go with what feels best and suits your needs.
7. Magnesium Can Help
A recognized muscle relaxant, the mineral magnesium is difficult to come by from food sources (Brazil nuts, spinach, artichokes, almonds) alone. Take 250 to 500 mg in the evening (magnesium encourages sleep) so your back muscles can take the night off.
Another option to get magnesium in to your muscles is filling the bathtub with lukewarm water and a few handfuls of Epsom salt (cheap and easy to find). Water temperature is key, as hot water can cause muscles to swell and cold water can cause muscle cramping.
8. Movement and Exercise
When your back hurts, it’s very tempting to use that as an excuse to spend most of your waking hours sitting or lying down. Unfortunately being inactive leads to weaker muscles and stiffness, two things that are likely to make back pain worse. Aim for a gentle 30 minute walk a day or if that’s too much then just 1-2 minutes of movement regularly throughout the day.
Remember, too, that long stints of sitting are bad for your overall health and won’t do much for your back pain either. Get up every 20 minutes and move or change positions.
9. Deal with Dehydration
Water cushions and lubricates our joints, keeps our skin cells plump, delivers nutrients, and protects the intestinal tract lining from damage by enzymes that digest food. Water plays a role in breathing, body temperature management, brain functions, and a long list of other processes. In short, we need water — and lots of it — to maintain good health.
The results of a new study show that people who were well hydrated while suffering from lower-back pain experienced more pain relief after back manipulation than those who were dehydrated.
10. Stop and Smell the Roses
Too often, the body’s aches and pains aren’t caused by physical injury but because we push ourselves too hard. Make sure you take your time and schedule breaks when doing physical activity if your back hurts. Stress also adds to how your body reacts to pain, so the calmer and more relaxed you are, the more your back will thank you. When you’re anxious, your body sets off the “fight or flight” response, which involves tensing your muscles so you’re ready to spring into action. One European study revealed that people prone to negative thoughts and anxiety are more likely to suffer from back pain.
Hopefully these tips may give you some relief. For long lasting change it is important to get to the cause of the problem, which often is an imbalance in your spine (subluxation) that has been caused by your lifestyle habits. Book in for an assessment today and find out how you can increase your chances of not letting pain stop you doing the things you love.
NOTE: Please use this information at your own risk. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed below while you have a backache, please see a doctor immediately — you may be suffering from a condition than is not neuromusculoskeletal:
- History of an immune system disorder, osteoporosis, or cancer
- Back pain felt only at night
- A fall or accident
- Weight loss without dieting
- A numb or tingly feeling in the extremities
- Bladder or bowel malfunctions