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What Can I Do To Ease My Lower Back Pain

Sleep On A Quality Mattress

How to Fix Your Lower Back Pain for Good

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.

Stop Trying Passive Treatments

Passive treatments like heat, ice or ultrasound may feel good, but their effect is usually only temporary. Most research indicates that active self-care exercise and postural correction is an effective remedy for low back pain.

A visit to your physical therapist can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.

What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs

Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal.

If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back that may cause the pain to radiate into the legs, such as facet joints, sacroiliac joints, muscles or inflammation of the bursa.

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What Is The Outlook For People With Lower Back Pain

The outlook depends on the cause of pain. Most people with back strains and sprains recover and do not have long-term health issues. But many people will have another episode within a year.

Some people have chronic back pain that doesnt get better after several weeks. Older people with degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis may have symptoms that get worse over time. Surgery and other treatments are effective at helping people with a range of injuries and conditions live pain-free.

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain

5 Super Simple Exercises for Lower Back Pain [Infographic]

Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.

See your provider if you have:

  • Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
  • Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
  • Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
  • Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.

References

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Know Your Otc Medications

Nonprescription pain relievers can help with muscle aches and stiffness. The two main types of over-the-counter options are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

True to their name, NSAIDs help lower inflammation that can lead to swelling and tenderness. But acetaminophen does not relieve inflammation. You can reach for either type of pain reliever for occasional back pain. NSAIDs may work a bit better, Hemani says, if you have arthritis of the spine or other inflammatory conditions.

Is It Muscle Strain Or Sciatica

Back pain that occurs after excessive exercise or heavy lifting is frequently a strain injury. However, occasionally these activities cause disc injury and rupture or herniation. When a herniated disc irritates the sciatic nerve, it can cause back pain and, in some people, leg pain.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a form of nerve pain caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs down through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. Pressing on or pinching of the sciatic nerve causes shock-like or burning low back pain. Sometimes people feel as if the pain radiates down through the buttocks and down one leg, sometimes even reaching the foot.

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Should I Use Ice Or Heat

Both heat and ice can help in different circumstances. Heres a quick guide:

  • Use ice if your pain occurs as a result of a direct injury, for example, after a fall, knock, sprain, or strain. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes several times during the day. The cold lowers body temperature and helps to constrict blood vessels, reduce swelling, and inflammation. Cold will also help to reduce muscle soreness. But dont apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause an ice burn, instead always wrap in a cloth or towel
  • Use heat if your pain is more ongoing . Taking a hot bath or placing a hot water bottle on the affected area can often help
  • Use a combination of ice and heat to help manage your pain. For example, use heat to warm up stiff muscles in the morning or before you go to bed and apply an ice pack for pain, where theres inflammation through exertion, during the day. The cold will help to reduce inflammation and the heat aids in tissue healing

Acupuncture For Low Back Pain Relief

Lower back pain treatment: What can I do to relieve my low back pain?

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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What Is Lower Back Pain

Low back pain can result from many different injuries, conditions or diseases most often, an injury to muscles or tendons in the back.

Pain can range from mild to severe. In some cases, pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk, sleep, work or do everyday activities.

Usually, lower back pain gets better with rest, pain relievers and physical therapy . Cortisone injections and hands-on treatments can relieve pain and help the healing process. Some back injuries and conditions require surgical repair.

Do What You Can To Keep It From Flaring Up Again

I have done physical therapy in the past, which included guided stretching, lower back stabilization, and motor control exercises. The idea is to learn the exercises that work for you and keep doing them. Back before I had kids, I took formal yoga and Pilates classes at the gym. Nowadays, I rely on my home yoga and core exercises, with some of the moves I learned from physical therapy mixed in, all of which I really, really need to practice nightly. My routine takes all of five to 10 minutes, and also helps me to relax into sleep.

Im two weeks into this latest bout of pain, and I find that any long car ride or day at work sets me back. Im plugging away at it, as I know that almost all back pain goes away with time.

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Bonus Tip: Soothe The Pain With Cold And/or Hot

Don’t underestimate the pain reduction of simply applying cold packs and/or hot packs to help reduce your lower back pain.

  • Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and pain. Some examples include wrapping ice in a cloth, a pack of frozen peas from the freezer, or a cold gel pack. Always keep at least one layer between your skin and the ice/cold pack.
  • Heat therapy helps improve blood flow, relaxation, and pain relief. Heat therapy can come in many forms. It’s best to try several to find what works best for you. Taking a warm bath or shower, soaking in a hot tub, or using a heating pad or heat wrap are all ways to bring warmth to your lower back.

Whether applying ice or a heat pack, limit applications to 15 or 20 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between to protect your skin. Never sleep with a heating pad or frozen pack as this can lead to permanent skin damage.

Hopefully these overlooked remedies can help you try some new approaches to better manage your lower back pain and find lasting relief.

Consciously Try To Relax Your Muscles With Slow Deep Breaths

Do Inversion Tables Help Back Pain

Seriously, I know this much easier said than done, but you NEED to do it.

If you learn to breathe the right way, it wont hurt so easily. Breathing poorly will move your rib cage too erratically and might trigger your back muscles again.

Try to relax your muscles when they are in spasm with slow, deep and controlled breaths. Its pretty painful to breathe deeply when you have a full attack, but it will get you to focus more.

We tend to breathe very quickly and shallow when we are in pain. Shallow breaths or even holding your breath is a natural reaction, but will only add to the discomfort.

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How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain

While you cant stop aging or change your genetic makeup, lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent lower back pain. Having a healthy lifestyle may make you less likely to suffer an accidental injury, too.

Improve your physical fitness. People who are not physically fit are more likely to develop lower back pain because strong core muscles help support the lower back.

Stay active. People who lead sedentary lives may be more likely to injure themselves when they do exert themselves. As far as back health is concerned, its better to do a smaller amount of physical activity most days of the week than to sit all week and over-exert yourself on the weekends.

Lose weight if necessary. The more you weigh, the more pressure you have on your lumbar vertebrae. Being overweight or obese can put stress on the back and lead to lower back pain.

Lift heavy objects the right way. Be sure to squat while lifting so that your hips and knees do much of the work. Keep the load close to your chest while you lift.

Your legs, not your lower back, should be the main driver when you’re lifting something heavy.Make your workspace as ergonomic as possible. If you sit at a desk, make sure your chair has plenty of low-back support and your hips are at a right angle to the floor.

Dont use tobacco products. In addition to all the other health problems tobacco use causes, it can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.

Keep Moving Keep Stretching

Scared to get back to your exercise routine? It makes sense. After all, you want to be careful and avoid things thatâll make you feel worse. But did you know that your chronic back pain will improve if you get moving? Exercise keeps your muscles strong and prevents spasms.

Studies show that people who stay active despite low back pain are more flexible than those who play it safe and stay in bed for a week. Exercises that both strengthen and stretch your body help the most. In addition to walking, you might want to swim, ride a stationary bike, or try low-impact aerobics.

Also, research shows that yoga and stretching can ease pain and improve back movement. Scientists divided 228 people whoâd had moderate pain for at least 3 months into three groups. Two groups took a 75-minute yoga or stretching class once a week for 12 weeks. The third group got a book of exercises and lifestyle changes they could make to ease their discomfort.

After 3 months, those who did yoga or intensive stretching fared better than those who didnât. A full 6 months later, they took less medicine for their back pain. They also said their pain was better or completely gone during follow-up appointments.

While exercise is one of the best things you can do to relieve back pain, it shouldnât hurt or make your pain worse. If so, check in with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure youâre doing the right exercise for you.

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Chronic Low Back Pain Of No Specific Origin

Low back pain is defined as pain, tightness, and stiffness between the lower end of the rib cage and the buttocks. “Chronic” means the pain has lasted for twelve weeks or longer, and “no specific origin” means the pain cannot be traced to any specific cause, incident, or injury.

Most susceptible are individuals who perform heavy physical work, especially when there is ongoing anxiety, depression, and emotional stress at the same time. The longer the stress and back pain continue, the more difficult it is to ease the symptoms and return the patient to normal functioning.

Treatment involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes opioid medications for pain, though both have risks when used long term. Antidepressants may also be tried, along with psychological counseling.

Corticosteroid injections for the back are effective for some patients, and fusion surgery is sometimes attempted. Lifestyle changes in the form of improved diet, exercise, and stress management are very helpful in most cases.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, involuntary defecation

Symptoms that always occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: lower back pain

Symptoms that never occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: thigh numbness, buttocks numbness, lower back pain from an injury

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Massage Therapy For Low Back Pain

What Can I Do about My Lower Back Pain?

Studies have shown that massage treatments can help relieve chronic low back pain. Massage treatment can restore people to their usual activities of daily living and lessen pain. Massage therapy is limited, and would not be the most effective solution for patients with spinal complications, injuries, or disk problems since massage focuses on the release of muscle tension and not on the structure of the spine itself.

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What Are Some Common Lower Back Pain Causes

The causes of lower back pain are sometimes viewed as being mechanical, organic or idiopathic. Sometimes spinal conditions are congenital or acquired meaning the disorder develops later in life.

  • Mechanical lower back pain is often triggered by spinal movement and involves spinal structures, such as the facet joints, intervertebral discs, vertebral bodies , ligaments, muscles or soft tissues.
  • Organic lower back pain is attributed to disease, such as spinal cancer.
  • Idiopathic refers to an unknown cause.

These are some of the things your doctor might look for or rule out when you schedule a visit for back pain.

The common symptoms of lower back pain.

Sprains and strains. Ligament sprains and muscle or tendon strains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Theyre often related to overuse.

Degenerative disc disease. While the name sounds worrisome, it just means you have a damaged disc causing pain. Over time, discs become thinner and flatter due to wear and tear. That leaves them less able to cushion the vertebrae and more likely to tear .

Herniated disc. The protective covering on intervertebral discs can tear over time. When this happens, the soft inner disc tissue may push through the outer layer. A disc that bulges or slips out of place is known as a herniated disc, bulging disc, or slipped disc. The herniation may press on nerve roots, leading to symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the area that the nerve serves

What Research Is Being Done

The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.

As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

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Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain

You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.

To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
  • Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.

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