At least 80% of the people in the US will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. An estimated 149 million days of work are lost each year due to lower back pain. Back pain is the second most common cause of disability. These are alarming stats.
It is likely that you are reading this post because you have dealt with nagging, frustrating, annoying lower back pain at some point in your life.
I have had my fair share of lower back pain…
Growing up on a farm didn’t help matters much since I spent my summer bent over at the waist planting scallions and weeding peppers and squash. There were days I was unable to stand up straight and nights that I went without sleep because of searing right lower back pain.
From my own experience, and my career as a board certified orthopedic physical therapist, I have learned the best ways to manage and overcome lower back pain.
The truth is that there is an overwhelming amount of information on how to treat low back pain.
How can anyone make a sound decision from possible treatments that include, but are not limited to, yoga, Pilates, stretching, pain pills, rest, acupuncture, manipulation, adjustments, massage, “core strengthening”, physical therapy, surgery, and time? Likely, due to the insane amounts of options for treatment, most people do nothing and just wait and hope the pain will get better…the reality…
You need to take action and learn to take care of your lower back pain yourself first!
Often people don’t realize that the way they move may be the largest contributor to their pain.
As is the case often in life…we are our own worst enemies!
The best part about these 5 “simple” tips to ease your lower back pain is that you can do them yourself…TODAY…without having to see your doctor.
Avoid slumped sitting
Rounding of the lumbar spine, or flexion, increases pressure on the lumbar disc resulting in pain and weakening of the disc wall (annulus). Slumped sitting occurs most often during long periods of sitting at work, or during your evening commute, or while sitting on you nice plush living room couch while watching TV. These postures may seem benign to you since you do not have pain while you are sitting. The effects of slumped sitting are seen when rising from sitting or later in the day after the disc has been strained from compression.
The simple fix…
- Use a small pillow or sweatshirt behind your lower back while sitting at work, in your car, or while watching TV at night
- Placing the support between the two seat cushions is very helpful as it blocks your pelvis from rolling into the open space
- Adjust your car seat so your back is slightly reclined and your leg cushion in the bottommost position (the higher the leg cushion angles the more flexion in your spine)
- Move your seat in close to your workstation so you don’t have to lean forward while working to see the computer screen.
Sleep with a pillow between your knees (on your side) or under your knees (when on your back)
We are in bed anywhere from 6-9 hours per night and therefore it is essential to keep our spine in positions of low stress. When we lie on our side at night, our top leg falls inward towards the lower leg pulling our spine into rotation. When we lie on our backs, the weight of our hips makes a larger dip in the mattress pulling our spine into extension.
Waking up at 5 AM with a strong ache in your lower back that just want go away until you get out of bed.
The simple fix
- Place a large pillow between your legs that runs from your upper thigh to your feet when you sleep on your side
- Adjust the height of the pillow as needed until you are the most comfortable (I use 2 pillows)
- On your back, use 1-2 pillow under your knees, again adjust the height as needed
“Log roll” out of your bed in the morning and when getting into bed at night
As stated before flexion, bending at the waist, adds pressure to the lumbar disc causing pain. When you get out of bed by doing a partial sit-up straight forward you are putting a large force on the disc.
This one action could be the cause of your pain for the rest of your work day!
The simple fix
- Perform a “log roll” by moving your legs, hips, and torso as the same time as you roll to avoid rotation
- Then bring your legs over the side of the bed to create a fulcrum (weight assistance)
- Then press into sitting with your elbow and hand while keeping your abdominal muscles “braced” tight
Keep your weight even on both legs while standing (don’t “sink” into one hip)
This is a common issue that just overlooked all the time. Typically we are at the grocery store, waiting in line, and we decide to “rest” so we sink our weight onto one leg. Again the effects of this posture is seen later on. This posture compresses the lumbar disc on the side you are sinking your weight on to.
Compression hurts…decompression helps!
The simple fix
- Place your feet heel to instep and bend your knees slightly
- Squeeze your buttock muscles
- Put equal weight on each leg
- Switch leg positions as needed
Visit your local physical therapist…YES even without a referral, without seeing the doctor!!
Physical therapists are experts in treating and improving posture and movement. These “tips” are what I use every day at my clinic. These are the first things I teach every patient and 9 times out of 10 they return for their second visit with less pain just by performing these “simple” tricks.
The best part is that you do not need to spend time and money visiting your physician in order to get a referral to attend physical therapy. California is a direct access state and therefore patients come to see me regularly without having been to their doctor.
There is no need to deal with lower back pain longer than you have to. Get care as soon as possible…from an expert in human movement and orthopedic lower back treatment…and from someone who has dealt with lower back pain and knows the best “simple” tips to get you feeling better without disability or loss of quality of life.
If you would like to talk with a physical therapy specialist today about your lower back call 408-784-7167 to speak with me directly. You can also send me an email with the address Kevin@compedgept.com
Use simple strategies to improve the way your feel and move!
Kevin Vandi DPT, OCS, CSCS
Physical therapist for San Jose-Los Gatos-Campbell-Almaden