Managing Back Pain
Most of the patients with lower back pain improve with minimal treatment in a matter of days. However, if back problems persist, doctors generally prescribe one or more of the following treatments: proper exercise, rest, heat and cold, posture training, weight loss, stress management and relaxation exercises, medication, spinal manipulation and/or surgery.
For many people, the key to a healthy back is proper exercise. Some exercises are designed to strengthen your back and stomach muscles, while other exercises are designed to improve your posture. A 30 minute aerobic conditioning program three times a week is ideal for overall fitness. Walking and/or water exercise are highly recommended for most people with back problems.
Techniques for Good Posture
- Sit in a firm chair with armrests to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders.
- Keep your upper back straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back. You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks. Some people are more comfortable sitting with the back of the chair at a 15- to 20-degree angle. A small cushion behind the lower back to maintain the natural curve of the back also can be quite helpful.
- Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
- Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or other surface.
- Don’t sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.
- Stand with weight equal on both feet.
- Avoid locking your knees.
- Ease tension in your back by placing one foot on a footstool.
- If you stand for long periods of time, wear flat or low-heeled shoes.
- Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.
- Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- If more comfortable, place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.
- If you sleep on your back, placing pillows under your knees would help your lower back pain.
- Use a firm mattress.
Body Mechanics: To keep good posture while in motion is to use good body mechanics. In lifting, this means that the object lifted is held close to the body and that lifting is done with your legs. The normal back curves are maintained, the legs lift the load. Avoidance of twisting, particularly when carrying a load, is also important for good body mechanics. Move your feet, do not twist your torso.
When bending down to lift an object, bend with your knees instead of your back.
- Hold the object close to you.
- Straighten your legs to lift the object.
- Get help with an object that is too heavy.
The type of shoes you wear can also affect your posture. High heels may put more stress on your lower back by changing your posture. You might find it more comfortable to wear low or flat heels. Cushioned-soled shoes also provide “shock absorbency” for your spine.
The best way to lose weight is with a balanced diet along with regular exercise. Be sure to avoid fad diets or fast weight-loss programs.
Every day of our lives is filled with some kind of stress. In fact, any situation can cause stress such as work, personal relationships, raising children, paying bills, the death of a loved one or a new experience. Even very happy occasions such as a family wedding, birth of a new baby or family vacation can be stressful. For many people with back pain, the greatest stress comes from unwanted changes in their lives caused by the pain itself. Try to learn to relax your mind and body.
Learn to Relax
Coping successfully with arthritis includes both physical factors such as the right posture and gentle exercise as well as a positive mental attitude. Pain can cause stress which in turn aggravates the discomfort. Learning to relax is an important step in preventing and reducing both stress and pain. Certain yogic asanas such as dhyana or meditation are very helpful. Or try the famous Relaxation Response which is based on the principles of meditation.
- Lie down or sit quietly in a comfortable position. The room should be cool, clean and quiet.
- Close your eyes but not tightly.
- Starting with your feet and slowly progressing up to your face, deeply relax all your muscles. Stay relaxed.
- Breathe in deeply but gently through your nose. Be aware of your breathing.
- While breathing out through your mouth, say the word – one -silently to yourself. Empty all thoughts from your mind and concentrate on saying the word, one.
- Carry on for 10 to 20 minutes. If you like, you could open your eyes to cheek the time but don’t get up or set an alarm or timer.
- When you have finished, continue lying down or sitting quietly for about five minutes, eyes closed at first. Then get up slowly. Let relaxation occur naturally. Don’t force the pace. If a distracting thought comes into your mind, ignore it and again repeat the word, Practice the Relaxation Response once or twice a day but not within two hours after a meal, as the process of digestion can affect your success.
People with sciatica or spinal stenosis often need surgery. A few people with tumors within the spinal canal require it.
New Treatment Helps Back Pain
A new study shows electrical nerve stimulation is an effective way to provide short-term pain relief of lower back pain.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas compared the effectiveness of exercise therapies to percutaneous electrical stimulation (PENS) and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) in 60 patients. PENS involves inserting thin needles into the soft tissue of the lower back while TENS involves placing four electrode pads on the back. All study participants received all three therapies as well as the control group therapy, which included placing the needles in the same areas as the PENS treatment, but without the electrical stimulation. Each treatment was given individually for three weeks during the four-month study.
Study results showed PENS was more effective than TENS or the exercise therapy in delivering short-term pain relief while also improving physical function in 91 percent of the patients, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The PENS therapy was also significantly more effective in improving physical activity, quality of sleep and sense of well-being.
Lower back pain is one of the biggest physical complaints in the United States, which is why there is a growing interest in non-pharmacological treatments such as acupuncture and spinal manipulation.