Lower back pain is a very common experience, but one that doesn’t have to be endured passively. With the right pain relief strategy, you can reduce or, even, eliminate that ache as well as help protect yourself from future bouts of lower back pain. There are many remedies you can try like pain medications, massage or physical therapy, but one of the easiest and most healthy is a robust program of stretches for the back.
If you are experiencing lower back pain, you are not alone. At any given time, there are more than 30 million other Americans who are experiencing a similar health condition. The entire U.S. population spends more than $8 billion on medical products and services to treat lower back pain. This problem also appears to be worsening in recent years; in the past three decades, the number of disability claims related to this health condition grew at 14 times the rate of population growth.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
This surge in the number of lower back pain cases may be related to many factors including:
- A rise in the number of obese Americans—Almost 40 percent of all Americans are considered obese, and this extra weight—usually around the midsection—produces additional strain on the lower back.
- A more sedentary lifestyle—A cultural shift from do-it-yourself to instant gratification is contributing to the epidemic in lower back pain. More people work at their desks and sitting is a major cause of back pain. This is supplemented by hours sitting in front of a TV or computer screen.
- Acute injury—the combination of unhealthy lifestyle and unfit physique is often a recipe for a back injury. Many people don’t realize how weak their back muscles are until they attempt something strenuous and injure themselves.
- Aging population—there are currently almost 46 million Americans over the age of 65, but this is the fastest growing age segment of the U.S. population. By 2060, there will be more than 98 million seniors in the U.S., and this age group is especially susceptible to back problems.
Types of Low Back Pain
Although pain symptoms may appear in the same area, they may be related to different health conditions. Here are some of the most common health conditions that cause lower back pain:
- Herniated disc—between your spinal vertebrae are cushiony discs that prevent the bones from rubbing against one another. If a spinal disc is torn or misaligned, then the herniated disc may press against the spinal cord, causing pain. This may also allow bones to impact one another and produce painful bone spurs.
- Spondylolisthesis—this condition involves a dislodged vertebra resulting from a fracture or illness that may press on a nerve.
- Scoliosis—if the normal curvature of the spine is warped, this may produce additional stress on the spine and back muscles.
- Osteoarthritis—the most common form of arthritis erodes the cartilage
- Muscle strains—in cases of overexertion or injury, you may stretch or tear a muscle or ligament in your back.
Pain Relief Methods for Lower Back Pain
Over the centuries, physicians and back pain sufferers have tried numerous methods to alleviate pain symptoms. Here are some of the more successful ones.
- Hot/cold treatment—if you strain your back, one of the most immediate remedies you should try is applying a cold or heat pack. A cold pack will keep down inflammation as well as numb the pain, but you should only use them for less than 20 minutes at a time. You should then apply heat to stimulate blood flow and expedite healing.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers—commonly available pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can reduce inflammation and limit pain sensations. Taken properly, these OTC drugs may be as effective as more potent prescription pain killers.
- Exercise—it may not seem like it, but moderate exercise is actually good for your back even after you injure it. Discuss your exercise regimen with your doctor first to ensure you don’t further injure your back. Not only will a fitness program help you lose weight—a key aggravating factor for lower back pain—but, if you focus on your core muscles, you will be protecting yourself from future injury.
Stretching to Relieve Back Pain
Lower back may be caused by many health issues, but one common symptom is muscle tension. Normally, if you experience pain, you will respond by tensing your muscles. Over time, this constant contraction of your back muscles will produce secondary pain symptoms.
That is why stretching is such a powerful way to remedy back pain. Not only does it limber up your back muscles, thereby relieving additional pressure on injured or inflamed tissue, but it relaxes your muscles. This relaxation alleviates secondary pain symptoms and promotes blood flow which accelerates the healing process.
Here are some stretches that should help with your lower back pain:
- Child’s pose—place your hands and knees on the floor. Extend your hand out as far as possible with your palms on the floor, while gently bringing your hips down to rest on your heels. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Cat stretch—with your hands and knees on the ground, round your back up gently, like a cat. Hold for 5 seconds then relax. Repeat 5 to ten times.
- Lower back twist—lie on your back with your arms fully extended out from your shoulders. Raise your knees until your upper and lower legs form a 90 degree angle, while keeping your feet flat. Slowly swivel your knees to one side while keeping your shoulders flat on the ground. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Knee to chest stretch—lie with back on the floor and your knees bent. Put your hands just below your knees and gently raise your knees as close to your chest as possible. Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Hamstring stretch—place one leg on a chair with heel on the seat and the knee locked. Then gently try to bring your head down to your knee. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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