If you find yourself with an aching back at the end of the day, you are in good company. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at one time or another during their lives. While back pain can be indicative of serious underlying medical issues, oftentimes it is related to a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, poor posture, or mental stress. In these cases, there are steps you can take at home to relieve your lower back pain and prevent future pain.
15. Alternate the Use of Cold Compresses and Heat
Ice and heat act in different ways to help with back pain. Ice causes blood flow to the area to decrease, which also reduces inflammation and swelling. Heat increases blood and oxygen supply to the area, which reduces pain. Try applying an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables to the area for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by taking a warm shower or wrapping a hot water bottle in a towel and applying it to your back for 15 to 20 minutes.
14. Apply Pressure
Massage can be a great way to obtain relief from back pain. If a trip to the spa isn’t in your budget, try using a tennis ball to apply gentle pressure to the painful areas of your lower back. For sciatic nerve pain, simply lie on the floor with your knees bent and place the tennis ball under your lower back, moving until you find the tender pressure point area. Stretch out one leg at a time, allowing the pressure of the tennis ball to loosen up tight muscles in the area.
13. Engage in Low Impact Exercise
While nagging back pain may seem like a good excuse to stay off your feet, low impact exercise actually reduces back pain. Walking, swimming, bicycling, and yoga are good ways to keep your body moving, build up your muscles, and release some feel-good endorphins that will help alleviate your back pain.
12. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying around those extra pounds affects more than just your morale. If you’ve packed on some extra pounds, your back muscles are working harder to carry out your daily tasks. The extra strain on your backbone can also cause a misalignment of your vertebral column, causing you extra pain. Aim for a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-24.9 to decrease the stress on your back.
11. Use Proper Lifting Techniques
We’ve all been told, “Lift with your legs, not your back.” To implement this, always stand feet apart, close to the object you are going to lift. Bend at your knees, not at your waist, to grasp the object. Straighten your knees slowly, tightening your stomach muscles, while holding the object close to your body.
10. Exercise Your Core Muscles
The core muscles include the abdominal muscles, the oblique muscles that run along the sides of your body, and the muscles that run along your spine. Strong core muscles mean your body can rely on those muscles. Core-strengthening exercises include planks, side planks, and the upward dog.
9. Evaluate Your Posture
Good posture helps to prevent or combat strain on your back caused by gravity. Slouching puts unnecessary strain on your spinal column by moving bones and joints out of alignment. To stand with proper posture, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent and your weight centered on the balls of your feet. Stand straight and tall with your stomach tucked in, shoulders back, and head level.
8. Try Relaxation Techniques
A lot of our physical health is related to our mental health. Anxiety, depression, and stress all take a toll on the body and can result in tense muscles. Taking time to relax and clear your mind can do wonders for your body, including your back. Progressive muscle relaxation is one way to relax your mind, body, and muscles. In either a seated position or lying down, tense one group of muscles at a time, starting with your feet. Tense the muscles for five to 10 seconds while slowly inhaling, then exhale and release the muscles. Move up the body, tensing and relaxing each group of muscles, ending with the face.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Adult bodies require seven to nine hours of sleep each night to allow for restoration and rejuvenation of their body systems. If you are not getting enough sleep at night, try some of these techniques to ensure your bedtime is restful and restorative. Be sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Keep your bedroom quiet and dim to allow for uninterrupted rest. Avoid heavy meals and stimulating foods such as chocolate or caffeinated beverages within two hours of bedtime. A warm cup of tea and soothing music can help make the transition from the chaos and stress of the day to a time of peaceful slumber.
6. Find the Right Sleeping Position
The right sleeping position can make a big difference in the comfort of your back. If you prefer sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees for added support. If you find sleeping on your side to be more comfortable, lie on your side with knees bent and place a pillow between your legs. Use additional pillows around your body for support. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, as it can place additional strain on your back.
5. Change Your Eating Habits
Remove foods from your diet that cause inflammation, such as processed foods, fried foods, and sugar. Replace these foods with nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods. Colorful fruits and berries, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables all contain powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation. Fish, nuts, and seeds are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Switching to fresh, whole foods will give your body the nutrition it needs, increase your energy, and decrease painful inflammation.
4. Switch Up Your Work Area
Sitting for long periods of time can lead to stiffness and back pain. Consider an ergonomic chair or a standing desk at work to alleviate the pressure on your back. If you are unable to invest in a new desk or chair, try placing a rolled towel behind your back at the lumbar region for more support. If you must sit for a long duration, change your position from time to time and take breaks to walk or stretch.
3. Invest in Comfortable Shoes
Wearing high heels or improperly fitting shoes can add extra strain to your back, as your back muscles try to compensate for an imbalance in the normal distribution of your weight. Toss those flip flops or high heels and treat yourself to a well-fitting pair of comfortable, supportive shoes. The added support takes some of the strain off of your back and relieves the pressure on your spine caused by shoes that put it out of alignment. If you treat your feet right, you will reap the benefits.
In addition to regular stretching before exercise, stretching can relieve pain by loosening up the back muscles and allowing more mobility. When you are stretching, be sure to wear comfortable clothing. Remember to use slow, gentle movements, and never force a move that feels painful. A simple exercise to try is to lie on the floor with your knees together and bent. Grasp your right knee and pull slowly toward your chest. Hold your knee toward your chest for 20 seconds, then slowly release. Repeat this exercise on the right leg three times, then begin again with your left leg.
1. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Around 60 percent of our bodies are made up of water. This includes the little jelly-like discs between the vertebrae. When the body becomes dehydrated, its stores of water are depleted. This can divert water from the spine to other organs, as well as leaving dehydrated back muscles achy and stiff. Be sure to drink eight glass of water each day and eat fruits and veggies high in water content.