The best predictor of future low back pain is a prior episodes of low back pain. There are many factors and reasons for this, and one of those many reasons is due to a tendency to treat the symptoms (pain) while not properly addressing and correcting the problem (improper movement, poor posture, crappy exercise, etc). Once we get rid of the pain, we move on and hope and pray the pain doesn’t return. There’s got to be a better way. Great news, there is a better way, and we’re going to give you a few pointers to get you started. Here are 5 things you can do right now to treat your low back pain and prevent future episodes. Warning: you will be asked to DO SOMETHING.
- Move more, sit less – According to the CDC, one in four adults sits for 8 or more hours per day. Conversely, only 3% sit for less than 4 hours. We are sitting and sitting and sitting. So, what’s the problem? First, many people are sitting with slouched, rounded posture. Assuming this posture places excessive stress on the posterior elements of the joints that comprise the low back. Over time, these tissues become inflamed, damaged and painful. Second, our joints are made for MOVEMENT. Isn’t that a fancy thought? When our joints are not moving for much of the time, the tissues can become tighter and tighter, restricting motion. Again, the same injury cycle occurs, and tissues become inflamed, damaged and eventually painful. The solution is simple; get yourself up and move around. Another idea is to set yourself up with a convertible desk so you can sit on occasion and stand during others.
- Bend backwards occasionally – During our daily activities, which we already pointed out, mostly involve sitting and minimal movement. Our activities are dominated by forward flexed posture, and when we do move, it’s usually forward bending (flexion). Again, this places excessive stress on the posterior elements of the spine. A simple fix is to stand tall, place your hands on your low back and bend backwards as far as possible a few times. You can think of this as “undoing” all flexion dominant postures and movements you’ve done all day. We suggest doing these 5 to 6 times throughout your day. It takes 20 seconds. We’re confident you can find 20 seconds somewhere in your day.
- Correct your squat and hip hinge movements – You sit down and stand up many times throughout your day. You also pick things up (kids, grocery bags, laundry baskets), bend over to tie your shoes and many others. When these movements are performed correctly, you can do them all day every day without issues. However, when performed incorrectly, they add stress and wear and tear to the low back, eventually leading to pain. Check out the videos below and see how you can quickly correct these movements and prevent low back pain.
- Learn to breathe – What the heck does that mean??? Proper diaphragmatic breathing is vital for core activity and stabilization of the low back. This is a complex topic, and you can see our previous post for more details. However, you can make a simple change right now. As you sit there, sit up straight, relax your shoulders and try and take a breath that causes your belly to expand like a big balloon. That pressure you feel is referred to as intra-abdominal pressure and it helps by pressing up against the front of your spine creating a little bit more stability and a solid anchor for the muscles of your extremities to attach to. In our opinion, it is worth seeking out a trained professional that can help insure you are doing this correctly.
- Eat right – Stop eating crap. 60% of the American diet is comprised of refined sugar, flour and inflammatory omega-6 seed oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, etc). This diet is pro-inflammatory leading to chronic low levels of inflammation. When you are causing damage to tissues of the low back through lots of sitting and faulty movement patterns, this inflammation becomes excessive. Rather than being restorative, it can be like throwing gasoline on fire. Instead, let’s choose a diet rich in grass-fed meats (or lean cuts when choosing conventional meats), lots of colorful vegetation, good quality fats, no sugar, and little starch. This might sound difficult to you, but in reality it’s quite simple…stop eating crap from boxes and choose foods that grow from the ground with lots of color and things with faces (meat). If you do that, it’s hard to get it wrong. In other words, EAT REAL FOOD. By choosing this anti-inflammatory way of eating, you can help cut down on the excessive inflammation, help repair and restore tissues, and ultimately getting rid of pain. A great resource is “The Deflame Diet: DeFlame your diet, body and mind” by David Seaman.
There you have it, 5 things you can start doing right now to help treat and prevent low back pain episodes. They might not be easy, but they are simple and all of them require you to become active in your own healthcare. If you find yourself struggling with low back pain, please schedule a visit with us today and let’s get you back to performing your best at work, life and sport.