7:00am the alarm goes off, you rub your eyes, stretch your arms out wide and yawn. Swinging your legs over the side of the bed and placing both feet on floor you're ready to start the day. You begin to lift your weary body out of bed when uh oh...your backs gone again!
Whether it be the odd twinge, a more general stiffness or an acute attack of the dreaded lower back pain these top tips are exactly what you need to guide you through this oh so common situation and fingers-crossed help prevent it becoming a regular thing.
1. Keep moving
Rest is definitely encouraged but gentle movement performed at regular intervals and low level activity are actually preferable over complete bed rest or being sat for any prolonged period of time. Lack of movement will make your back pain worse.
2. Practice good posture
Good posture is essential in all aspects of life; sitting, standing, lifting and most definitely whilst exercising. Becoming more aware of your posture will prevent you from putting unnecessary strain on your back. Keep an eye out for these common bad postures: slouching at your desk, feet up to one side on the sofa, holding the phone between your neck and shoulder, sleeping on your front.
3. See your osteopath!
Don't wait for a small problem to become a big problem, book in to see your Osteopath early on to reduce the risk of further injury. The most important step in your recovery journey is to figure out why you have back pain and the rest follows. Osteopaths are back pain specialists and we are here to help so take advantage of this.
4. Know your limits
When it comes to exercise or even normal daily activities it is important to listen to your body and not to push yourself too hard if you are in discomfort. Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise. Don't feel guilty about taking some downtime when you need it most, the gym can wait and the garden doesn't have to be perfectly pruned all the time. Perhaps use this time to see your therapist, take an Epsom salt bath or try some gentle stretching.
5. Apply heat or ice
Hot or cold compression packs applied to the area can be a really effective way to get some short term pain relief and muscle relaxation. You can buy these packs at most local pharmacies however a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel work just as well.
6. Sleep with a pillow between your knees
Many patients find that sleeping with a pillow between the knees during episodes of lower back pain can reduce pain and help them to get a better nights sleep. The pillow supports the top leg and stops you from over rotating in the lower back and pelvis as you sleep.
7. Avoid heavy or awkward lifting
If your back is feeling a little ropey and out of sorts its common sense to treat your body kindly during this time. Heavy lifting and lifting in awkward positions will place an additional load on your spine and the supporting structures which may be vulnerable if your are already experiencing back pain. Try to avoid this for the time being as it may aggravate your condition.
8. Do not 'google it'
An innocent online search of your symptoms can very quickly lead to an afternoon filled with anxiety and hypochondria. My advice is don't even go there, save yourself the stress and leave the diagnosis to the professionals.
9. Strengthen your core Lower back pain can often be caused by and result in weak core muscles. Developing strength in these muscles is essential for a stable lower back, long term pain relief and injury prevention. Your therapist can advise you on which exercises will be suitable for you.
10. Stay fit and healthy: Body, mind and soul. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, frequent stretching and strengthening, keeping hydrated and a well balanced diet are all highly important factors in keeping the body in good working condition, thus minimising the chance of injury. We also know that pain is highly influenced by our minds, the presence of stress and depression are proven to alter the interpretation of pain signals within our brain. So when we think about pain management and the preventative measures we can take this of course has to include addressing our mental health.
- NHS, 2017, Overview Back Pain, viewed 09/04/2019, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/back-pain/
- John Schubbe, 2004, Identifying incorrect posture, Veritas Health, viewed 09/04/2019, https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/identifying-incorrect-posture
- NICE, 2016, Low back pain and sciatica in over 16's: assessment and management, NICE, viewed 09/04/2019, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng59/chapter/Recommendations