What Are Some Complementary Alternative And Emerging Treatments For Lower Back Pain
In some cases, doctors suggest therapies that are not considered standard of care. They probably wont be covered by insurance, but they may be worth considering. Examples include:
Platelet-rich plasma . PRP treatments use a small sample of your own blood that has concentrated amounts of blood building blocks known as platelets. Your doctor then injects the PRP directly into a damaged disc. The theory is that PRP injections use your own healing system to accelerate improvement of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. PRP treatment has a longer track record in knee osteoarthritis, but a recent review article in the Journal of Spine Surgery suggests it may have a useful role for back pain, too. PRP needs a lot more research before it can be considered a proven technique.
Stem cells. In this emerging treatment, your doctor injects stem cells harvested from your hip into the intervertebral disc or discs causing your pain. Doing so may lessen pain and the degenerative effects of aging, though, like PRP, more research is needed before stem cells for lower back pain could eventually become the standard of care.
Acupuncture. Your doctor probably doesnt perform acupuncture , but may support you trying it as a complementary therapy. Acupuncture involves careful insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific points on your body. This may stimulate the release of your natural pain-killing chemicals.
Stretch #5 Hip Flexor Stretch
Building off of the concept of posterior chain it is important to consider the anterior chain as well.
Deficits in strength and flexibility can lead to several issues and lower back pain is most commonly coupled with weak and tight hip flexors. The hip flexors are the iliacus and psoas muscles. They are primarily responsible for lifting the femur into flexion .
When the pelvis is tilted forward through sitting, poor exercise technique, etc. there is a higher likelihood that the hip flexors will be in a shortened position as they attach to the lower spine and inside of the pelvis.
Over time this can cause weakness and tightness and encourage lower back pain. Fixing this issue at home takes time, but can be done through a hip flexor stretch.
Kneeling on the ground with the front foot put far out in front of you lunge forward while keeping your trunk over your hips and head up. The stretch will occur in the front of the thigh and hip toward the medial part of the leg that you are kneeling on. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds breathing in and out then switch to the other leg.
What Structures Make Up The Back
The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.
Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.
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What Causes Low Back Pain
It is usually caused by muscle strain in your lower back. If you strain a muscle in your back, it can hurt to move it.
Another cause of low back pain is a bulging disk. Disks in your spine give cushioning and support. When a disk bulges, or herniates, it may irritate a nerve . This can cause pain that travels down your thigh or leg. Pain caused by nerve irritation is called sciatica .
In rare cases, back pain may be caused by an infection, cancer, or other diseases.
Look Past The Position
You may think its as easy as side, stomach, or back. But, as MindBodyGreen explains, where your legs and arms are while you sleep can also affect pain levels. Having one leg hiked up higher than the other, for example:
Twists and torques the pelvis for as long as you maintain the shape. People who adopt this pattern often do so to accommodate tight muscles, so changing this pattern can benefit you in terms of the quality of sleep and balance of your muscles. Some people need to tie their legs together in order to make this change. You can use a bathrobe belt or something soft, and theres no need to tie the strap too tight, but as long as the legs cant separate you will be doing your body a wonderful service.
Pay attention to where your legs, arms, and neck are before you go to sleep and work to correct any uncomfortable shapes or patterns.
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Is Lower Right Or Left Back Pain Worrisome
Pain on one side of the back is not particularly more worrisome than central pain. There are three main kinds of one-sided back pain:
Most of the anatomy of the low back and abdomen is symmetrical. Some of the guts are not symmetrical, and only some of those is a plausible cause of back pain on one side. Heres some of the key anatomy to consider:
The side of the pain on its own doesnt tell us much, and most of the one-sided sources of pain are viscera that usually cause abdominal pain instead of back pain, or in addition to it. In other words, the only reason to worry about right or left lower back pain is if it is otherwise worrisome: if you have other red flags or significant non-back symptoms.
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What To Do If You’re Stuck Sitting All Day
Despite your active lifestyle, we know that many of you get stuck sitting for long periods of time, whether at your desk, driving a car, or flying to your next awesome fitness-adventure destination. In this video, yoga expert Jon Kolaska shares a simple stretch you can do while seated that will bring your lower back some relief:
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Two Back Pain Situations You Should Take Seriously Right Away No Delay
These two back pain scenarios might be medical emergencies. They do not necessarily mean something horrible is wrong, but its extremely important to make sure.
If you are experiencing true numbness14 around the groin and buttocks and/or failure of bladder or bowel control, please consider it a serious emergency do not wait to see if it goes away. These symptoms indicate spinal cord injury or compression15 and require immediate medical attention.
And, of course, if youve had an accident with forces that may have been sufficient to fracture your spine, please seek thorough medical assessment promptly, including an X-ray to look for a fracture. You need an X-ray to ensure that your spine is not actually broken.
Isnt it rather obvious that a potential spinal fracture is an emergency?
Acupuncture For Low Back Pain Relief
Acupuncture can be moderately effective for chronic low back pain. With acupuncture, fine needles are inserted into various points around the body.
Acupuncture practitioners hypothesize that when these thin needles are inserted into the skin and then stimulated by twisting or tapping, naturally occurring chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine are released to relieve pain.
Anecdotal evidence suggests acupuncture can be an effective pain reliever. Further scientific and clinical studies are underway to prove the efficacy of acupuncture therapy.
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Complementary And Alternative Techniques Include:
- Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves inserting thin needles into precise points throughout the body and stimulating them , which may cause the body to release naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
- Behavioral approaches include:
- Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to the skin and using an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and control their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature people regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques
- Cognitive therapy involves using relaxation and coping techniques to ease back pain
Spinal injections include:Trigger point injections can relax knotted muscles that may contribute to back pain. An injection or series of injections of a local anesthetic and often a corticosteroid drug into the trigger point can lessen or relieve pain.
Swim Your Back Back To Health
If your back pain has sidelined you to the point that weight training just isn’t an option – even with a good yoga warm up or band routine like Donnie’s – then consider switching to a different activity for a while: swimming.
Swimming and CrossFit coach Hannah Caldas herniated a disc a few years back and she found swimming to be incredibly helpful during her recovery phase. She opted not to undergo surgery and instead showed up to the pool three days a week. According to Hannah:
There are a few main reasons why swimming is a good rehabilitation tool:
It is low impact. It is a form of active stretching – swimming technically will ensure full range of motion movements for many different body parts. It provides just enough resistance from water to provide, over time, sustained aerobic conditioning to the rehabilitating subject, allowing them to continue to workout while rehabbing at the same time.
If your low-back pain is severe enough that even swimming seems daunting, you can start small. Hannah suggests you begin by getting into the water up to chest height and simply walking in the water. This is similar to what many therapist will have you do in their therapy pools. Once you’ve done this for a number of sessions and you feel good enough to swim, opt for the back stroke as the water will help support your back and thus relief some tension.
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Exercises For Low Back Pain
Exercises for low back pain involve improving flexibility and strength in the spine. Listed below are three exercises to relieve low back pain. For a longer list, check out our article on exercises for low back pain.
- Low trunk rotation: Lie on your back with knees bent. Then gently lower both knees to one side and then swing them to the other side.
- Transversus abdominis bracing: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Pull your belly button toward your spine and keep that position for 5 seconds. Then repeat.
- Side plank on knees: Lie on your side. Then prop yourself up with your forearm while keeping your knees on the ground. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
If you’re not feeling around 30% better after three weeks of physical therapy, you may need to ask your PT about a different technique, says Loren Fishman, MD, the medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
How Do I Stop My Lower Back From Hurting When I Walk
The posture you have when walking matters more than you think. Walking places a tremendous amount of weight on the spine, which can affect the support structure of the rest of the body. If you experience back pain when you walk, your posture may be the underlying cause.
So how do you stop your lower back from hurting when you walk? While the overarching answer can be different depending on the individual, improvements to your gait and general posture is an excellent start.
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Chronic Conditions That Cause Back Pain
Conditions that can lead to chronic low back pain include spinal stenosis, spondylitis, and fibromyalgia. Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the normal spinal canal through which the spinal cord passes. Spondylitis is chronic inflammation of the spine. Fibromyalgia is a muscle disorder that features chronic muscle pain and tenderness.
Sleep On A Quality Mattress
Lower back pain sufferers usually benefit from sleeping on a medium-firm mattress. However, your preferred sleep position also should influence your mattress selection. To maintain good posture, side sleepers should select a softer mattress. Back and stomach sleepers should choose a firmer mattress. If you have lower back pain, its a good idea to avoid sleeping on your stomach altogether.
If your lower back pain doesnt improve after 4 to 6 weeks of home care using these suggestions, you should see your doctor. You also should contact your doctor right away if you have any red flags, including:
- A history of cancer or a recent infection
- A recent fall or other accident
- Extreme fatigue
- Signs of infection, such as fever, chills, sweats
- Nerve problems, such as shooting pain, numbness or tingling
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
Other options for treating lower back pain may include physical therapy, pain management with cortisone injections or, in certain cases, surgery. Although lower back surgery can be beneficial for patients who are experiencing nerve problems and injured discs, its not typically recommended for patients with other types of lower back pain.
Download the Virtua Health Guide to Back Pain, or call to request a consultation with a Virtua back pain specialist.
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Should I See A Chiropractor For My Back Pain
Spinal manipulation is used by chiropractors and osteopathic physicians to treat low back pain in selected patients. Spinal manipulation applies hand pressure to areas of the low back to relax irritated muscle and lessen the intensity of the pain.
Traction, using pulleys and weights to lengthen and stretch the spine can result in temporary relief. Both techniques will not treat any underlying causes of back pain, but rather offer a temporary relief from lower back pain.
How Your Back Works
The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength.
Its made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. There are also the bones in the tailbone at the bottom of the back, which are fused together and have no discs in between.
On either side of the spine, running from top to bottom, are many small joints called the facet joints.
The spinal cord passes inside the vertebrae, which protect it.
The spinal cord connects to the brain through the base of the skull and to the rest of the body by nerves that pass through spaces between the bones of the spine. These nerves are also known as nerve roots.
As you grow older, the structures of your spine, such as the joints, discs and ligaments, age as well. The structures remain strong but its usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.
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Best Stretches And Exercises For Back Pain
Daniel Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., cofounder of Bespoke Treatments in New York City and an MH advisor, sees a lot of patients with back pain caused by the quadratus lumborum, which too often gets overworked in exactly the wrong way. He prescribes these stretches and these strengthening exercises to make things right:
Add A Few Pillows For An Easy Fix
Another easy and customizable way to improve your sleeping situation is to use pillows for additional support while sleeping.
For back sleepers, place a pillow under your knees to bring your body back into natural alignment. If you sleep in the fetal position, WikiHow suggests using a pillow in between your knees to relieve lower back pain. Their illustration of this is below. Side sleepers should also make sure to alternate sides during the night.
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Figure Out The Best Sleeping Position For Lower Back Pain For You
If you have back pain, the best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your back. As well discuss, pillows strategically placed underneath the knees can further support the body and minimize arching of the back in this position.
Sleeping on your side isnt ideal, but its much better than sleeping on your stomach, which is considered the worst position for people with back pain. While many people have a default sleeping position, trying to change it could be worth the effort if the position you naturally adopt is causing or worsening pain. Our post The Best Sleeping Position For Lower Back Pain has more suggestions for how to fix your sleeping habits. And, if you cant get away from stomach sleeping, we suggest a few ways to alleviate pain from this position.