Low back pain is the most frequent cause of missed work and it has been estimated that over 20 million people suffer with this debilitating condition. An aching back can also set you back on your workouts and put a damper on your social life. Here are some easy steps toward reducing lower back misery.
The first step in addressing back pain is to “put out the fire.” Inflammation is the result of the joints and nerves or soft tissues of your back becoming irritated and swollen. The initial medical treatment of choice is usually an oral anti-inflammatory and ice. You will need to consult your doctor about the former, but the later is a simple remedy. Flexible gel packs are best, but crushed ice works even better for guys over 200 pounds. Make sure that the ice is smashed into fine pieces. Ice needs to be applied for periods of 15 to 20 minutes until the area feels numb. Do not cover the ice with a towel because it will not penetrate deep enough into the tissue to work. For added effect, try doing knee-to-chest and pelvic-rock stretching while lying on the ice. This is called cryokinetics, or “movement on ice” and it literally pumps swelling out of the low back as you stretch.
The most common mechanical problems that cause low back pain are misalignment and fixation. A misalignment can occur due to a slip or fall when two or more vertebrae move out of position and impinge on a nerve or a muscle. Fixation is the stiffness created by an injury or fall or just by being in one position for a prolonged period. According to the most recent governmental study on back pain, chiropractic adjustments or manipulations are the best methods of mobilizing the spine, reducing fixations, and creating normalizing alignment. Consult your physician to get a recommendation for a chiropractor in your area.
Once the vertebrae have been mobilized, it’s time to stretch the muscles of the low back and hamstrings to increase muscular flexibility. It only takes a few minutes of knee to chest, pelvic-rock stretches and cat stretches each day to avoid hours and days or misery.
For a healthier low back, pay attention to your posture. Sitting increases the pressure on your low back by twice your body weight. Get up and move around at work. If you stand all day, don’t lock your knees, slump or round your shoulders. Instead, spread your legs and press forward with an arch in your low back. When sleeping, don’t sleep on your belly. Try to sleep on your back with your knees bent. If you sleep on your side, use a pillow under your waist or between your knees to take pressure off your low back.
Since your abdominal muscles provide 50% of the support for your lower back it is imperative to maintain a lean, fit midsection. Watch that belly, suck in your gut and do plenty of crunches at least 2-3 times per week.
Tom Bonanti is a certified personal trainer and massage therapist (MA#40288) with his own one on one facility Pumpnincgym.com in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact [email protected] with questions or to set up an appointment.