The term “back pain” covers a wide range of problems, but in a nutshell, this type of problem occurs when something in or near your spine malfunctions. It could be a muscle or joint. It could be a vertebra or the padding between the vertebrae, called discs. Or, it could just be something as simple as a pinched nerve. There are three major contributing factors to this type of pain:
- Accidents — strains, sprains, fractures and spasms
- Lifestyle — sitting at a desk all day; lifting, twisting or bending repeatedly; wearing uncomfortable shoes, work boots, or heels; and poor posture
- Spinal Problems — illnesses such as degenerative disc disease (torn or shrunken discs) or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
Exercises for Relieving Back Pain
Sometimes your physician will recommend special exercises to help you overcome back pain. These types of exercises typically target the muscles around your spine. But they may also be aimed at the ligaments or tendons in your legs and buttocks or at the core muscles that determine your body’s strength and posture too.
- Stretching — exercises that target the neck and shoulders, glutes and hips, and hamstrings
- Yoga — certain poses that target the lower back, including Sphinx, Pigeon, and Thread the Needle
- Low-Impact Aerobics — walking, using an exercise bike, using a step machine, or water therapy
Tricks for Correcting Your Posture
If your physician determines that your specific type of back pain is due to poor posture, there are ways of fixing that:
- Examine your posture in a mirror first to see which areas need work. Are you round shouldered? Does your pelvis push forward?
- Perform the Doorway Stretch — Place your hands on either side of an open doorway at chest level and gently lean forward. This simple move will help to correct rounded shoulders. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times daily.
- Try a pelvic tilt — Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and raise just your pelvis toward the sky. Do 8-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets daily. This exercise helps realign the S-shape that your body has developed and gets your spine back to a neutral position.
- Switch out your office chair for a balance ball — This approach forces your body to assume a natural balance, which increases your lumbar curve.
Ideas for Instant Relief
- Reflexology — There are acupressure points in your hands and feet that target lower back pain. Learn where they are and how to manipulate them for instant relief of lower back pain.
- Soak in Epsom Salts— A magnesium deficiency will cause muscles to contract in a painful way. If this is the root of your back pain, a nice, long soak in a tub filled with 2 cups of Epsom salts a few times a week will help. Epsom salts are made of magnesium sulfate and can be absorbed through your skin.
- Rub on Relief — Tiger Balm is made of camphor and menthol and can actually help increase blood flow to your painful areas to enable faster healing. It also helps to numb nerve endings anywhere you apply it.
Methods of Prevention
Of course, prevention is always the best option. If you can avoid the pain of upper or lower backaches altogether, even better. Try these ideas that are aimed at prevention instead of treatment:
- Add more magnesium to your diet by eating foods such as bananas, beans and spinach.
- If you work from home, invest in ergonomically designed office furniture such as desks, chairs, and keyboard trays. Then learn how to use them properly.
- Take frequent breaks when sitting for long periods of time.
- If your job entails frequent bending or lifting, learn how to do it properly.
Ten Timely Tips for Stopping Back Pain Before It Stops You
- Notice how you stand, sit, and sleep. Pay attention to how you position your body when it’s at rest. Stand with your weight evenly distributed between both feet, don’t cross your legs when sitting in your office chair, and try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees to properly align your spine.
- Stand more. Try standing instead of sitting when working at your laptop. Invest in a standing desk or place your laptop on a kitchen countertop instead of in your lap.
- Lose weight. If you carry extra weight — especially in your belly region — it puts more pressure on your back, which can result in nagging backaches.
- Ingest ginger. Ginger root is a proven anti-inflammatory. If your back pain ramps up after exercise, try adding slices of ginger root to hot water and drinking it as a tea to help relieve pain.
- Use capsaicin. The capsaicin found naturally in cayenne pepper is a pain reliever that’s used in many topical pain ointments to decrease pain signals throughout the body. You can eat the peppers in a variety of tasty dishes, ingest it in powder form added to food or drink, or purchase an ointment that features it as an active ingredient.
- Practice Meditation. People who practice meditation daily have been shown to have higher thresholds of pain. And when combined with deep-breathing exercises and positive self-talk, pain levels tend to decrease, says the University of Western Ontario’s Psychology of Pain blog.
- Apply Ice. If you hurt your back while exercising, lifting, or through another activity, apply ice right away. This helps to reduce swelling that can cause additional pain as time goes by.
- Avoid lying down. If possible, stay on your feet during a backache. This type of pain is never pleasant, but if you continue to make simple movements such as walking around the house, making the bed, or setting the table, it will keep muscles from stiffening up and worsening your condition.
- Practice posture therapy. Also called Egoscue exercises, posture therapy uses the wall and floor to properly realign your spine and ease back discomfort. The exercises are comfortable and easy to perform. And if you hold the poses for between 5 and 15 minutes daily, they can make great improvements to your posture and can even relieve back pain.
- Make a comfrey compress. Comfrey is a perennial herb known for its ability to help heal broken bones. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory that works well in compress form to help alleviate back pain. Somewhat controversial, comfrey is not recommended for ingestion because of toxins that can cause liver problems when taken internally. If you plan to use this potent plant to help combat back pain, talk with your physician first.
Back pain may be a chronic condition, but you can help alleviate it by making simple changes and by experimenting with the options offered here. But if you’ve tried all the recommended stretches, reflexology and lifestyle changes, and you still suffer from nagging back pain, it’s time to see a professional. Back pain that just won’t let up, that’s debilitating, or that’s accompanied by blood in your stools or urine needs to be addressed immediately by a medical professional. It could be a sign of more serious issues such as kidney stones or arthritis.