Tips for Managing Lower Back Pain

I’m sure lower back pain has affected majority of the readers of this blog. It actually affects 80% of Australian adults at some point in their life and is the most common form of functional restriction in people under the age of 45. Lower back pain can be caused by numerous different conditions affecting different areas of the lumbar spine but presenting in lots of different ways. Also, pain severity and location can also vary dramatically depending on the cause of the pain, as I have had to explain to many of my patients that their apparent “hip” pain is actually pain being caused by their lower back. Therefore, lower back pain in general is a very, very complex issue that is impossible to explain in a short blog. However, what I can explain are some simple management strategies to help ease acute episodes of lower back pain:

  1. Stay Active – this seems to surprise most people as the common belief tends to be that you must rest, sit down and be sedentary. However, increased movement and general physical activity aids mobility and reduces inflammation.
  2. Apply Ice – the use of ice is best used in the first 48 hours after the injury as it will help reduce inflammation and provide some pain relief. After the first 48 hours, you can then switch to using heat.
  3. Apply Heat – using a heat pack applied to your lower back during episodes of acute lower back pain can actually decrease pain levels and accelerate healing by improving circulation.
  4. Avoid Aggravating Factors – the type of movements you should avoid are totally dependent on your specific type of lower back pain. However, if a certain activity continues to aggravate your lower back, then simply don’t do it!
  5. Stay Calm – it is important to not worry about your pain levels too much. Thinking about your pain can become consuming and that constant worry can become a bigger problem that the actual pain itself.
  6. Stretching – when there is a high amount of inflammation around the spine, the musculature around the spine will become tight, which will restrict movement and reduce your functional ability. A number of gentle and specific stretching exercises can help improve your mobility and reduce your pain levels. It is important to do the right stretches so seek the advice of an Exercise Physiologist first.

Once the inflammation has settled, exercise can play a critical role in improving the stability around the spine and improving general functional ability. People with lower back pain generally have muscle imbalances throughout the spine and hips, therefore specific exercises can help improve that muscle balance which will result in better stability and support around the spine. The spine is also designed to move and some specific stretching and mobility exercises can help to increase the amount of movement in your spine. It would be irresponsible of me to list core stabilizing exercises as your exercise program should be tailored specifically for you. Seek the advice of an accredited exercise physiologist as they specialise in assessing and prescribing exercise for all types and severity of lower back pain.

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Ben Davis                                                                                                                                                                            Accredited Exercise Physiologist

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