Exercise And Movement Can Prevent And Help Relieve Back Pain
In my experience, people who tend to move more often throughout the day tend to experience less frequent episodes of back pain and often less intense back pain, says Stephens. However, this rule may not apply to people who have more physically demanding jobs that require a lot of lifting, he notes.
Generally, most types of physical activity are somewhat protective in terms of the likelihood of developing back pain and also the prognosis. If someone is habitually physically active, that seems to have some preventive benefit, and if back pain occurs, it helps someone get through it faster, says Stephens.
What kinds of exercise are good for back pain? According to Stephens, all types are good. For a large percentage of people, that could be something as simple as walking daily, he says.
A study published in October 2017 in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine looked at the walking habits of 5,982 people age 50 and older, 26 percent of whom reported experiencing lower back pain. Investigators found that the people who walked the most were the least likely to experience back pain.
Whether a person will benefit from specific strengthening exercises for their back depends on the person and the back pain, says Stephens. Check with a physical therapist or your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine, he advises.
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What Causes A Back Spasm
A mild strain is one of the minor causes of back spasms. However, for some others, back spasms are triggered by more complex conditions such as a herniated or ruptured spinal disc. If you feel like your back muscles are moving or contracting firmly, you should look out for the following common causes.
Stretches To Relieve Your Upper Back Pain
The cat-cow stretch is actually two stretches in one, and a great way to self-mobilize your thoracic spine . By moving through these two poses, you can gently mobilize each vertebra so that the small bones move the way they are supposed to for daily activities and do not become too rigid and stiff.
To perform: Begin in quadruped with knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Inhale as you move your sit bones up towards the ceiling, arching the back and pressing the chest towards the floor as you lift the head up. Relaxing the shoulder blades behind you. From there, inhale as you move from this cow position to an angry cat position, rounding out your back and pushing shoulder blades away from you as your spine forms a C curve in the opposite direction. Go through this cycle 10 times.
Side-Lying Thoracic Rotation
One of the upper back movements required for healthy mobility is rotation. With so much of life happening in an anterior-posterior or sagittal plane, the ability to twist and rotate can become limited. This stretch is a great way to improve rotation in your spine.
Childs Pose with Rotation
Childs pose stretches multiple muscles in the back, while also targeting the hips and even ankles.
Thoracic Extension Over Foam Roller/Chair
Pec Stretches on Foam Roller
Tight pecs can contribute to rounded shoulders and a tight upper back.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain
Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.
Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.
Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.
Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.
Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.
Maintaining A Healthy Weight Can Help Reduce Back Pain
If youre at a healthy weight, your muscles dont have to work as hard to support you against gravity. The muscles wont fatigue as quickly, and that would be helpful with pain, says Stephens. Theres also less pressure on your back and other joints, he adds.
A meta-analysis of 33 studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the association between overweight and obesity and low back pain, and found that both conditions increased the risk for low back pain.
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Applying Cold Packs And Heat To Your Back
Regular hot or cold therapy can loosen the tightness around your back muscles and relieve spasms. Both therapies help to relax your muscles and ease the side effects of muscle spasms.
Hot Therapy for Muscle Spasms
Apply a heating pad to the area around the spasms for 15 to 20 minutes. After this, massage the area with a cold compress to calm any inflammation caused by the heating pad.
If youd rather do without the pad, try having a warm bath, hot tub or spa session, or a hot shower.
Cold Therapy for Muscle Spasms
What Can Cause Lower Back Pain
Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis , lordosis , kyphosis , and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
- Spina bifida which involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord and/or its protective covering and can cause problems involving malformation of vertebrae and abnormal sensations and even paralysis.
- Sprains , strains , and spasms
- Traumatic Injury such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle causing the pain, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
- Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
- Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.
Nerve and spinal cord problems
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Getting Active And Hydrated
Staying hydrated is a great way to relieve back spasms quickly. This is even more important if you live in a warm area or your job requires exerting lots of physical energy.
Generally, experts recommend that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water, which is about two litres, or half a gallon of water every day. In reality, your actual water intake would depend on your individual needs, lifestyle, and prevailing weather conditions. Heres a simple table you can use as a reference.
How To Get Rid Of Back Spasms
A back spasm is a common muscle problem that one can experience when waking up and getting out of bed, lifting something heavy, or after a sudden or jerky movement. These types of spasms usually strike without warning.
The spasm occurs due to an abnormal contraction of the muscle that takes hold and does not relax. Factors that can contribute to such spasms include obesity, poor posture, structural imbalance in the body, dehydration, electrolyte loss and poor sleeping positions.
Occasionally, back spasms can be a sign of a spinal injury or other illness that require medical attention.
When it comes to common back spasms, treatment should start as soon as possible or the pain can become unbearable and severely affect your daily activities. In fact, muscle spasms are one of the most common causes of back pain.
Spasms in the back can be easily treated with home remedies and other popular techniques.
Note: If the pain is consistent and gets more severe with movement, consult your doctor immediately.
Here are the top 10 ways to get rid of back spasms.
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What Are Some Upper Back Pain Risk Factors
Say you havent seen the doctor yet about your upper back pain, but youre pretty sure its not an acute injury. After all, you havent taken up a new sport. Maybe you barely have time to exercise, much less overdo it.
Believe it or not, that actually increases your risk of back injury. When youre physically active, the muscles in your belly and backyour corehelp support your spine. If youre sedentary, you might have weak muscles that contribute to upper back pain.
Lack of exercise is one of several factors that can increase your risk of upper back pain. Others include:
Excess weight. Since your spine supports the weight in your torso, excess weight could stress your back. Belly fat, in particular, is a problem: If you carry a lot of weight in your midsection, it can strain the soft tissues in your back. Conversely, weight loss can reduce pain though research suggests it may be even more effective as part of a holistic strategy that includes pain management strategies.
Belly fat can contribute to upper back pain, but weight loss can help relieve it.
Psychological conditions. Experts arent sure why, but you might be more likely to have back pain if you have depression and anxiety. In fact, some research suggests that people who have depression have worse back pain than people without depression.
Improve Your Posture To Reduce Back Pain
Most of us spend a good part of our day sitting down, which may be more harmful than you realize. You can minimize the impact by maintaining good posture. Correct posture in a chair means having all the bones in your spine lined up neatly, like a stack of perfectly aligned blocks. You should keep your feet flat on the floor and your computer keyboard within easy reach so youre not leaning forward or slumping. This is part of proper office ergonomics.
Many apps and devices exist that can help you enhance your posture. If you work at a computer all day, try the software and app Posture Man Pat. This free app interacts with the webcam on your screen, tracking where your face is relative to your screen. If your posture starts to droop and curve, the app will alert you.
If you are looking to get really tech-savvy, try the Lumo Lift Posture Coach. This wearable device has a sensor that will vibrate when you change your posture from what the posture coach is calibrated to.
The Ultimate Deskercise Stretch Routine »
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Symptoms Of A Pulled Back Muscle
Symptoms of a pulled back muscle depend on where the injury is. The spine is divided into three major sections: the neck, upper back and shoulders, and lower back.
For a pulled muscle in the neck, you might experience:3
- Pain in the neck and upper back area
- Limited range of motion in the neck
- Stiffness in the neck
- Pain radiating to the shoulders or arms
Pulled muscles in the shoulders and upper back may cause:
- Pain in the area between the spine and shoulder blade
- Muscle spasms in the upper back
- Knots and tightness in the upper back and shoulders
- Pain when moving the shoulders
In lower back strain injuries, many people experience symptoms such as:3
- Aching and stiffness in lower back muscles
- Pain that worsens with movement
- Pain that radiates to the hips and legs
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle spasms in lower back area
- Pain when sitting, standing, or walking
Symptoms Of Back Pain Which Can Be Cured:
Movement is strenuous when you have pain in the back you can feel stiff and immobilized sometimes.
It is generally the middle and lower back, which is affected when you complain of back pain, but even the upper back can hurt.
The pain is spasmodic in the areas around the spine. At times, the pain radiates into the thighs, buttocks, hips, and even the leg or neck. Leaning either forward or backward causes severe pain.
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How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.
Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.
Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:
Change What You Sleep On
Who knew you could make so much progress toward relieving your back pain by simply just going to bed?
Make sure you have the right pillow.
You should be sleeping on a feather pillow or a memory foam pillow at night. These will adapt to the shape of your head and change shapes throughout the night as you move.
Firm pillows elevate your neck too high and that type of angle for a prolonged period is a common cause of neck pain.
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Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Longer
When you have a restful nights sleep, your back will feel less sore during the day.7 A night of restorative sleep can have healing benefits and make you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and less stressed.
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Try these natural sleep aids, one at a time, to see which one works best for you:
- Vitamins C and B6. The natural steroids in your body control your metabolism and promote good sleep.8,9 Supplements of vitamins C10 and B611 are known to help the body produce and regulate natural steroid hormones.
- Melatonin. Your natural sleep hormone, melatonin can be taken as a supplement to improve your sleep cycle.
- L-theanine. An amino acid found in tea leaves, L-theanine may help some people feel relaxed and get better sleep.
- Valerian. Supplements made from the root of the valerian plant may help you sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Another option is cherry juice or cherry extractscherries contain certain enzymes that help promote better sleep.4
See Natural Remedies and Herbal Supplements as Sleep Aids
Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another popular remedy for back pain with a lot of anecdotal support but fairly little scientific backing.
It is suggested that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of ACV may be responsible for its therapeutic effect, but further studies are needed to understand the exact mechanism and efficacy of this remedy in providing relief from back pain.
How to use:
- Add a few drops of coconut oil to unfiltered ACV to bring down its potency, and gently rub this mixture all over your lower back.
- Mix 12 tablespoons of ACV in a glass of water, and drink this tonic once a day to alleviate the symptoms of back pain.
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Ways To Relieve A Back Spasm
Several home remedies can provide relief for back spasms, especially in the early stages of the condition. A simple shift in your daily habits such as exercising regularly and good posture will set you on the right road to recovery. Common relief methods for back spasms include:
Lets get into the specifics of each remedy in detail.
Treating A Pulled Back Muscle In 8 Steps
No matter where a pulled muscle is in the body, the steps to treat it are generally the same. However, its important to talk to a medical professional before treating an injury because symptoms of other injuries, such as disc problems or a broken bone, may resemble strains and sprains. After talking to a professional, try the following steps:3
Apply cold. Cold helps reduce inflammation, which is the primary source of pain in the first few days. The faster you can apply cold to a pulled back muscle, the faster you may reduce pain, help control swelling, and start the healing process. Apply a cold pack for 15-20 minutes as soon as the injury occurs. Take a break of at least 20 minutes between each cold application.
Use compression. Applying compression bandages or using an active compression system may help reduce swelling and edema so the damaged tissues can repair themselves more quickly.
Rest. Right after a muscle strain, it is important to limit your activity level and avoid movements that increase pain. After the initial pain subsides, returning to previous level of activity may help prevent the muscles from growing weak.
Stretch. According to Kojo Hamilton, MD, as you return to activity, gentle stretching exercises may improve tissue healing by bringing more blood flow to the injured area. Applying heat to the area prior to stretching may also be beneficial. Ask a doctor about the right stretches for your condition.
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