How to Keep Low Back Pain from Getting Worse
Anyone who has experienced low back pain understands how disruptive and demoralizing it can be, especially when left untreated. Even minor bouts of pain can limit your activities, distract you at work, add to your stress, and even cause depression — especially if the pain persists or worsens over time. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent low back pain from worsening. Here’s a sample of what you could try.
Stop any activities or movements that aggravate your pain.
This may appear self-explanatory, but many people fail to recognize the connection between certain types of movement and back pain. Identify and avoid any behaviors, activities, or movements that may be aggravating your injury. That doesn’t mean you should become sedentary or immobile (more on that later) — it just means you’re giving your back a temporary break from the things that are causing it to hurt, so it can heal.
Stay active as much as possible
When you’re suffering from back pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, with the exception of activities that specifically aggravate your back, you should maintain as much activity as possible. Muscle strength and flexibility are two of your best natural defenses against back pain. Speak with your doctor or physical therapist about low-impact exercises you can do to strengthen your back muscles and relieve pressure on your spine. If you work at a desk, make time to get up and stretch every now and then.
Keep your posture in check
Low back pain often develops gradually as a result of poor posture habits. By changing these habits, you can alleviate and sometimes even reverse the pain. Don’t slouch forward when you sit, stand or walk. Practice standing/sitting with your back straight and your head squarely above your shoulders. You may be surprised at how much better you feel after only a few weeks.
Change your mattress
A sagging, worn-out mattress that provides little or no support can worsen low back pain. In fact, a bad mattress could be the source of your discomfort. Everyone’s firmness preferences vary, but in general, low back pain sufferers benefit from a medium-firm mattress — one that supports pressure points without being too firm. To get a better night’s sleep, do some research and try out some mattresses at your local furniture store.
The connection between smoking and back pain may not be obvious, but believe us when we say it exists. Nicotine reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood that is required to nourish your back muscles; it also reduces blood flow to the spine, which can cause the disks to dry out and crack. Given all of the other health risks associated with smoking, now may be the ideal time to quit. Your back, as well as your lungs, heart, and many other parts of your body, will thank you.
Seek medical treatment
When basic self-care doesn’t seem to be alleviating your low back pain, and the pain appears to be worsening, it’s time to consult with an experienced spine specialist to discuss your medical options for pain management. Don’t take this to imply that you must have surgery. Physical therapy, massage therapy, regenerative injection therapy, and other treatments are available in modern medicine to treat back and spine issues, with surgery reserved as a last resort.
More than 80% of Americans will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. That doesn’t mean you have to accept it, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to let it worsen. Try some of the above-mentioned remedies and see if they help you — and, if necessary, seek medical attention.
Manual therapy, exercises, and pain neuroscience education can all be used by physical therapists to treat low back pain. Click here to learn more about our back program.