Lower back pain (or low back pain) is one of the most widely experienced ailments and is a leading contributor to missed workdays. In many cases, people start experiencing back pain when they are only in their 30s and their attacks can increase as they age. The resulting restriction of mobility can significantly impair your quality of life. Consequently, a lot of effort goes into wondering how to relieve lower back pain. Although a painful back can sometimes improve without any treatment, it is sometimes necessary to take steps to ease this condition. In this text, we will suggest 10 possible treatments for this extremely common condition.
- 1 Symptoms
- 2 How to Relieve Lower Back Pain
- 2.1 Heat Treatments
- 2.2 Yoga & Back Stretches
- 2.3 Massage Therapy
- 2.4 Topical Analgesics & Other Pain Relief Medications
- 2.5 Physical Therapy & Back Strengthening Exercises
- 2.6 Use A Back Brace For Improved Posture & Greater Lumbar Support
- 2.7 Reduce Body Weight To Ease Low Back Pain
- 2.8 Pay Attention To Your Lifting Technique
- 2.9 Steroid Injections
- 2.10 Back Surgery
The symptoms of low back pain can be anything between a dull ache and a sharp shooting or stabbing sensation. In severe cases, you may also experience difficulty moving or even just standing straight.
Lower back pain may be either an acute or chronic condition. Acute cases appear suddenly and you can usually link them to a specific event such as an injury during sports or while lifting heavy weights or loads. If you experience back pain after a fall or other injury, you should consult with your doctor to ascertain the severity of the condition. Warning signs of a particularly severe case that may require medical help include difficulty controlling your bladder or bowel. Other symptoms that can be warnings of a severe injury include groin numbness, weakness in the legs, fever and pain, particularly when coughing or urinating. These are all possible indications of serious problems that should prompt you to consult a doctor.
If your discomfort lasts for more than 3 months, doctors generally consider it to be a case of chronic back pain.
Additional information on the causes and diagnosis of lower back pain may be found here.
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain
We now discuss 10 possible ways to treat back pain. We will discuss home remedies at first before moving on to consider treatments in a physician’s office or surgery.
If your back pain is due to a muscle strain. it will usually improve with a couple of days of rest. However, you can ease the pain by applying a cold pack to the injured area for periods of about 20 minutes. Repeat every 2-3 hours until the pain has eased.
Once the pain has eased, try applying a heating pad 3-4 times daily. Warm baths and/or showers will also help to ease the pain while your back heals on its own. Heat treatments such as these will help to promote blood circulation through your back. This in turn will reduce pain and promote healing. Moist heat therapy, such as you would get by taking a warm bath or shower is even more effective at reaching deep body tissues and providing rapid pain relief. You can read more about the benefits of moist heat therapy here.
If the problem is indeed due to a muscle strain in your lower back, you should try to avoid bed rest for more than a couple of days. Studies show that if you remain in bed too long with a back strain, you may end up losing muscle flexibility and tone due to inactivity. In some cases, this can actually lead to greater back pain instead of less.
Yoga & Back Stretches
Because of the many stretches included in yoga, it may actually be an effective treatment for back pain. This is especially true of chronic conditions that have lasted for 3 months or more. Conventional stretches may also be effective. If you decide to take up yoga, be sure to mention your back problems to the instructor so that, if possible, he or she can customize the program to address the issue.
You can also consider massage therapy as a treatment for your low back pain. Try to combine it with a yoga or other stretch program as noted in the previous paragraph. Even better, combine yoga and massage therapy with a physical therapy/exercise program (more below) for an effective and conservative treatment program for your lower back pain.
Topical Analgesics & Other Pain Relief Medications
These medications do not directly address the question of how to relieve lower back pain. However , they will help to ease your pain and discomfort while other therapies like massage and yoga do their work. Topical analgesics can be effective when the problem is a back strain, and do not generally have side effects or possible addiction issues. Other over the counter medications that you may wish to consider to ease mild back pain include Ibuprofen (Advil) or Naproxen. If your pain is more severe, you may wish to consider prescription pain killers. To repeat, these should not be considered as answers to the question of how to relieve lower back pain. They are merely temporary means to ease the pain and discomfort while other treatments do their work.
Physical Therapy & Back Strengthening Exercises
Your low back pain may have caused you to be incapacitated for a long time. If so, you should consider physical therapy to help you get back to your normal activities with less risk of re-injuring yourself. Physical therapy exercises will usually include be designed to stretch and strengthen back muscles and ligament. They may also include low impact cardio workouts that will reduce the forces reaching your back to minimize the risk of aggravating your injury. A qualified physical therapist can design a program for you that will get you back in the game with least risk of incurring another back injury.
Use A Back Brace For Improved Posture & Greater Lumbar Support
There are many upper back braces that will help you to maintain proper posture by e.g. keeping your shoulders straight. By improving your posture, they help to ease lower back pain. The LP Clavic Brace is a prime example of this.
In addition, a properly designed lower back brace can provide the lumbar support you need to avoid straining your back while lifting heavy loads. They can also be useful as part of a rehabilitative program as you try to return to normal activity without re-injuring your back. For good examples of these lower back braces, consider the Bio Skin Back Skin with Lumbar Pad or the Mueller Sports Medicine Green Adjustable Back & Abdominal Support. The McDavid Back Stabilizer includes steel stays for additional lumbar support. This feature is absent from many other back braces but makes it easier to qualify for insurance coverage in Canada.
Other back braces are designed with conditions like spondylitis or herniated disc problems in mind. The braces include the Bio Skin Back Flex, as an example. You should consult with your doctor to ensure that these braces have the features necessary to address your particular back problem.
Reduce Body Weight To Ease Low Back Pain
We mentioned above that, in some cases, low back pain can be the result of excessive body weight. So, if you are overweight and wondering how to treat lower back pain, consider participating in a weight reduction program. This will include both dietary modifications and more frequent exercise.
Pay Attention To Your Lifting Technique
This is one of the more frequently overlooked issues when considering how to relieve lower back pain. In many cases, you may be bending your back excessively while lifting and putting to much pressure on that area. Instead, try bending your knees instead of your back. Keep your back as straight and vertical as possible while lifting. By doing so, you are using the stronger muscles in your thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings) and calves to bear the load and protecting your (relatively weak) back muscles.
You may be surprised at the way this simple change in lifting technique causes your low back pain to disappear in a few months or even weeks.
If the above, more conservative treatment options are unsuccessful at treating your low back pain, your doctor may suggest steroid injections next to the spine. The injections may target irritated nerves that are responsible for sending the pain signals to your brain.
Surgical options for treatment of lower back pain include herniated disc removal, widening the space around the spinal cord (to treat spinal stenosis) or fusing adjacent spinal vertebrae together. Of course, before choosing any of these options, you should discuss their upsides and downsides in detail with your doctor.