I’ve often thought that I can pursue my career for as many years as I want because it is not physically strenuous. However, with several weeks of low back pain, I’ve found that there is something that can prevent me from sitting at a computer for more than five minutes at a time. Perhaps you, too, occasionally suffer from low back pain and would like to know of ways to alleviate it without resorting to pain killers. Following are five ways that just might work for you.
1. Massage therapy
Massage therapy is a great way to relax the muscles that may be tight, going into spasms, and causing you pain. A certified or licensed massage therapist is trained to assess the situation and apply the appropriate techniques for getting you back into your routine.
2. Proper posture
Sometimes discs may bulge in the low back simply because we do not sit up straight. Using a lumbar support will help this, as well as an ergonomically designed chair. But don’t go spend a lot of money for things you don’t need. “When sitting, the use of a small towel roll in the small of your back is extremely helpful, especially when driving,” shares LeAnn Wakeman, Registered Physical Therapist in the state of Idaho. “When lying on your side, placing a pillow between your knees takes strain off that area as a well.”
Often, the pain comes from remaining sedentary, or in the same position, for too long a period. If you work at a desk or computer, get up and walk around. If you have to stand in one place all day, keep a small stool at your station to rest your foot on occasionally. Also, whenever you can, leave your station and take a walk.
If you are prone to back pain, it would benefit you to keep to a regimen of stretching and strengthening exercises. According to Wakeman, “Strengthening of abdominal muscles is key to good posture and low back pain prevention.” However, this must be done before experiencing any pain, or after healing takes place. She shares that the best exercise for this is the plank—not the curl-up or crunch.
To do the Plank she says:
- Lie face down on a mat with the palms of your hands flat on the floor.
- Push up from the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows.
- Keep your back flat. You should remain as straight as a board from your head to heels.
- Tilt your pelvis and contract your stomach muscles to prevent your bottom from sticking up in the air or the middle of your back sagging like an old horse.
- Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 3-5 repetitions. Increase the time as your strength improves.
For a demonstration of this exercise, see here.
If you do use a massage or physical therapist, ask them to teach you a few stretching exercises to do every day. Also, if you cannot leave your work station, stretch where you are.
5. Non-pharmaceutical Pain Relievers
Icy Hot, Bio-Freeze, or Tiger Balm are all great analgesics that you can apply topically. Valerian root is a nervine herb which calms the nerves and relieves pain. It will make you drowsy so it is a good thing to take before going to bed. Also, a balanced calcium/magnesium supplement will feed your muscles and help them to relax. If the pain is acute, ice is another good treatment. “Inflammation is the body’s way of splinting an area that is hurt, to keep us from doing more than we should,” said Wakeman. Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory. Quercitin with bromelain is another.
Hopefully you won’t need these tips. But if you do, I hope they help.