Perhaps you bent the wrong way while lifting something heavy. Or you’re dealing with a degenerative condition like arthritis. Whatever the cause, once you have low back pain, it can be hard to shake. About one in four Americans say they’ve had a recent bout of low back pain. And almost everyone can expect to experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Sometimes, it’s clearly serious: You were injured, or you feel numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs. Call the doctor, of course. But for routine and mild low back pain, here are a few simple tips to try at home.
Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation, says E. Anne Reicherter, PhD, PT, DPT, associate professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Even though the warmth feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes,” she says. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice — take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest. If pain persists, talk with a doctor.
“Our spines are like the rest of our body — they’re meant to move,” says Reicherter. Keep doing your daily activities. Make the beds, go to work, walk the dog. Once you’re feeling better, regular aerobic exercises like swimming, bicycling, and walking can keep you — and your back — more mobile. Just don’t overdo it. There’s no need to run a marathon when your back is sore.
Once your low back pain has receded, you can help avert future episodes of back pain by working the muscles that support your lower back, including the back extensor muscles. “They help you maintain the proper posture and alignment of your spine,” Reicherter says. Having strong hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles also gives you more back support. Avoid abdominal crunches, because they can actually put more strain on your back.
Don’t sit slumped in your desk chair all day. Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way. “Because most of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our jobs, it’s important to stand up and stretch backward throughout the day,” Reicherter says. Don’t forget to also stretch your legs. Some people find relief from their back pain by doing a regular stretching routine, like yoga.
Design your workspace so you don’t have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach way out for your mouse. Use a desk chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.
WATCH YOUR POSTURE
Slumping makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Be especially careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.
WEAR LOW HEELS
Exchange your four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels may create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine.
KICK THE HABIT
Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems. Osteoporosis can in turn lead to compression fractures of the spine. Recent research found that smokers are more likely to have low back pain compared with nonsmokers.
WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.
TRY OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN RELIEVERS
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) can help reduce back pain. Acetaminophen (Actamin, Panadol, Tylenol) is another over-the-counter option for pain management. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.
Call your doctor if:
Your low back pain is severe, doesn’t go away after a few days, or it hurts even when you’re at rest or lying down.
You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking.
You lose control over your bowels or bladder.
These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.
ARE FUNCTIONAL ORTHOTICS PART OF YOUR WELLNESS PROTOCOL?
Most Chiropractors advertise pain relief without drugs and care for injuries. Recently, some doctors and practices have begun labeling and promoting themselves as Wellness Centers. A wellness practice is focused on both maintaining a pre-existing level of musculoskeletal balance and postural health and preventing conditions that might alter this state of health. The challenge is, how can healthy patients be protected from problems that might arise in the future? The answer is simple: custom-made orthotics. Custom orthotics may be traditionally seen as a preventative measure, but so are most treatments of old. They are the perfect, foundational support your patients will never want to go without.
Wellness is a great concept—one of those “win-win” situations for doctor and patient. Orthotics are the perfect way to implement this concept and help establish a “preventative” approach, in addition to the traditional reactive ones, if need be. Let’s take at a look at the foundation of the body, and see just how useful they can be.
LOOK TO THE FEET
The feet are the foundation of the body. By age 40, nearly everyone has a foot condition of some sort, many of which eventually contributing to health concerns farther up the Kinetic Chain (Figure 1). Therefore, it’s in the best interest of healthy patients to be offered a wellness program which stresses preventative care for normal, healthy feet, in order to prevent foot problems from occurring later in life.
While 99% of all feet are normal at birth, 8% develop troubles by the first year of age, 41% at age 5, and 80% by age 20. By age 40, nearly everyone has a foot condition of some sort.
HOW CAN ORTHOTICS HELP?
Patients who participate in Chiropractic wellness programs can benefit from custom-made orthotics nearly as much as patients who seek Chiropractic care for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Foot Levelers’ custom orthotics have been shown to effectively support the pedal foundation for both categories of patients, and can prevent problems well into the future with static and dynamic support.
Static support.Static support. A 1999 study using radiographic measurements found that custom-made, flexible orthotics can significantly improve the alignment of the arches when standing.2 In the wellness-practice concept of orthotic use, custom-made, flexible orthotics can be used to maintain a properly functioning arch alignment.
Dynamic support. During gait, the foot undergoes substantial changes and must permit a smooth transfer of the body’s center of mass over the leg in order to conserve energy and keep the work expenditure to a minimum.3 This requires a flexible, yet supportive orthotic that accommodates varying weights and forces and allows proper movement and function of the foot, while supporting all three arches—in order to prevent eventual arch collapse.
Postural benefits. Since the entire body structure is balanced on one foot at a time when walking and running, improving foot alignment can help maintain knee, hip, pelvic and even spinal postural alignment,4 and prevent joint degeneration (of the hip, knee, or spinal joints). A pelvic or spinal tilt or recurrent subluxations will often respond rapidly to orthotic support of the arches in the feet.
ORTHOTICS FOR EVERYONE
Custom-made, flexible orthotics have long been recognized as a valid adjunct to Chiropractic care for many musculoskeletal conditions. In the wellness model of Chiropractic care, Foot Levelers’ custom-made, flexible orthotics (Fig. 2) can be utilized as a preventative modality for the preservation of optimal arch support and the postponement or prevention of joint imbalances in later years. Therefore, orthotics are appropriate for virtually all Chiropractic patients.
Once you have low back pain, it can be hard to shake. One in four Americans say they’ve had a recent bout of low back pain. For Answers to any questions you may have please call Dr. Jimenez at 915-850-0900