Roughly 80% of all Americans will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives, and discomfort in the area is a top reason for both workplace-related disabilities and visits to doctors' offices every year. If you're one of the millions affected by low back pain, the good news is that there are ways to ease your discomfort. Read on to learn more about how lower back exercise, chiropractic therapy, and other interventions can bring relief.
Common Lower Back Pain Causes
Low back pain can stem from a variety of causes, including:
- Poor posture. Rounding your shoulders, sitting hunched over, and bending your neck to stare down at your phone can all put pressure on your spine, leading to pain.
- Strains. Moving heavy objects, exercise, sports, and even sleeping in a strange position can cause muscles in the lower back to stretch too much or tear, resulting in stiffness and muscle spasms.
- Disc injury and spinal stenosis. When one of the discs along the spine slips or ruptures due to a sudden twisting motion or lifting too much weight, you can experience severe pain that lasts for several days. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column places pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and can cause numbness, weakness, and cramping.
- Sciatica. If one of the nerves in the base of the spine becomes pinched, you may experience the sharp, shooting pain of sciatica, which often radiates from the buttocks down the legs.
- Curvature of the spine. Scoliosis and other spinal abnormalities can place pressure on the nerves, resulting in chronic pain.
- Chronic conditions. Lower back pain is a common symptom of arthritis, fibromyalgia, spondylitis, and spondylosis.
- Infections. Kidney and bladder infections can cause sudden, intense pain in the lower back.
- Pregnancy. Due to pregnancy, changes in weight distribution can stress the lower back, leading to pain.
Lower Back Pain Relief
Conventional Pain Management
Conventional pain management techniques may be enough to ease discomfort for a simple back strain. Experts recommend the RICE technique, which involves:
- Resting to allow the lower back muscles to heal
- Ice therapy to ease inflammation
- Compression with a wrap or wide elastic bandage to reduce the amount of pressure on the spine
- Elevating the lower back with a wedge pillow while you sleep
Lower Back Stretches and Exercises
Exercises and stretches for lower back pain can strengthen the spine and alleviate the pressure that causes many types of back pain. Some yoga poses like child's, cat, and cow poses are especially beneficial for the spine. You can also try knee-to-chest stretches and pelvic tilts to help ease tension in the lower back. Before beginning a new stretching or exercise regimen, consult your medical provider. Depending on the cause of your low back pain, some moves may not be ideal for you.
As experts in spinal health, chiropractors are uniquely qualified to treat lower back pain and typically use chiropractic adjustment lower back therapy to address discomfort. This involves manipulating the spine to correct misalignments and ease pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. In addition to chiropractic back adjustment, a chiropractor may employ other pain relief techniques such as ultrasound or TENs therapy. They can also suggest exercises, stretches, and lifestyle changes that can reduce the likelihood of back pain returning in the future.
During massage therapy, licensed therapists use their hands and elbows to move the body's soft tissues. Regular treatment can help stimulate circulation to support healing and release tension and pressure that play a role in back pain. The benefits of massage therapy go beyond pain relief: studies have found professional massage therapy can reduce stress levels and boost immune system function.
Personal Lower Back Massage
At home, you can treat yourself to a low back massage. While it can't match the benefits of chiropractic or massage therapist care, self-massage can play a role in lower back pain management. A simple way to perform self-massage is to invest in a foam roller. Lie on your back with the roller positioned under your back and then move your body back and forth. You can also find vibrating massage tools with extended handles to reach the lower back.
Because there are so many potential causes of low back pain, you must see a medical professional for a diagnosis before you attempt to address the problem. In some cases, treatment for an infection or underlying condition may be necessary to ease the pain. Scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor for lower back pain evaluation is the first step toward getting relief.