Lower back pain can be debilitating and hugely restrictive to peoples’ quality of life, but there is a lot that people can do to reduce pain and improve movement and function. The worst thing is to do nothing! Some lower back problems are quickly and easily fixed, others can take time and some may be permanent. But all can be helped to some degree.Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Be aware. Observe what things irritate your back and learn to modify those things. If you struggle to make connections then keep an activity/pain journal and add to it what activities that you have done and when you have pain.
2. Ice. Acute lower back injuries will respond to ice applications (10 minutes maximum, hourly).
3. Heat. Longer standing back pain will often be helped with heat application. Moist heat is the best (i.e. soaking in a bath/spa etc).
4. Learn what muscles are involved with your back problem. There are always some muscles that will be contributing. These can be stretched/massaged/heated and can have a huge benefit.
5. Core strengthening. Getting the muscles around your back working optimally is essential to good back health. You need to be taught this by a professional; strengthening the wrong muscles is futile. Pilates can be very useful for this.
6. Address foot biomechanics. Some back problems are a result of feet that are not functioning correctly. A thorough biomechanical assessment can identify any potential issues.
7. Keep moving. It was not long over 20 years ago that the advice for lower back pain was bed-rest. We now know that this is the worst thing. Keep moving frequently and gently but don’t overdo it! Again, observe if there is anything that irritates.
8. Learn how to lift properly. The human frame can lift huge loads, but we need to understand how to lift correctly. Of course some back issues need to avoid heavy lifting so check with a professional if this is appropriate and how to lift correctly.
9. Keep flexible. Keeping all the muscles above and below your back flexible can be just as important as the lower back muscles (e.g. hamstrings/quads/glutes). Yoga can be great for this.
10. Regular care. Regular care is critical to prevent re-occurrences or to manage a long-term problem. I often joke with clients that they shouldn’t do anything to care for their back issues as it would be terrible for my business. Hopefully, the message gets across that the more you do to care for your back, the less help you will need. Make a plan and stick with it; the results will be well worth it.It’s an old cliché, but I can’t resist … if you look after your lower back it will look after you!