Oh, My Achy Back! 6 Tips for Acute Low Back Pain
by Dr. Amy Mercovich
Acute back pain – we all have it at one time or another. Here is how to take control and suffer less from an episode of acute lower back pain.
1. Visit your chiropractor regularly for spinal adjustments. Prevention is always best. Also, keep in mind that not all back pain is structural. There can be a life-threatening condition causing your back pain so see your doctor or chiropractor and do not ignore the pain!
2. When in doubt, use ice. The rule is this: when there is acute joint, nerve, or disc pain there is always inflammation present. Inflammation responds best to ice because it helps to “put out the fire.”
Ice application directions: Place an ice pack (preferably a soft gel pack) on the back through clothing or a damp washcloth for 15-20 minutes every couple of hours. You may lie down or put the ice pack inside a belt or the back of your pants and walk around.
3. Avoid Sitting (and use a lumbar cushion if you do sit). Sitting increases the lower lumbar disc pressure by 400% compared to standing. If you are spending an evening babying your back, you can ice your back while laying on your side and switch sides often. If you must sit, put something behind your lower back so the arch, or lumbar curve, is maintained. This places more of the weight of your body onto your ischial tuberosities (aka cheekbones) instead of your lumbar spine.
4. Stretch (a little). Overstretching a hurt back will only add insult to injury. So, take it easy and just do a few light stretches of the back and hips.
Light Stretches – Hold each stretch 20 seconds or 5 breaths.
1) Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest.
2) Lie on your back with your knees bent and do pelvic tilts (pelvic rocking motion, do 5 times).
3) From your hands and knees, arch your back up like a cat.
4) From your hands and knees, sit back on your hips with your arms outstretched. (This is “child’s pose” if you know yoga.)
5) Sit in a chair and place one foot on your other knee. Lean forward and press down on your bent knee to stretch your glute medius & minimus (deep muscles just above your hip joints). Repeat on other side. This is a “Figure 4” stretch for the hips.
6) Sit up tall (or you can do this lying down on your back) and pull one knee towards the opposite shoulder stretching the piriformis muscle in the buttock.
5. Avoid Aggravating Activities The movements to avoid when experiencing acute lower back pain include: bending, lifting, pushing/pulling, stooping, and twisting. Common activities to avoid include: vacuuming, mopping, loading/unloading dishwasher, carrying a baby carrier or laundry basket, pull-starting a lawnmower, pulling weeds, golfing, and lifting anything heavy. However, you do not want to be a couch potato. Easy walking on a level surface is generally recommended to help pump fluids (swelling) out of the inflamed areas.
6. Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel Application Biofreeze Gel can give temporary pain relief right where it hurts (yet it does not replace ice application). Rub the gel on a couple of times per day to help you carry on with light tasks that need doing.