6 Ways to Improve Back Pain
When Deanne Bhamgara fell from her electric scooter on a San Diego pier, she didn’t do much at first. The fall left her sore, but she felt little pain.
But over the next few days, she slowly started to suffer more and more.
“What started out as a tingling sensation in my thighs quickly became tender to the touch,” says Bhamgara, 28. The San Francisco resident later learned that the fall affected her lower back, tailbone, pelvic areas and hip joints. Within days, Bhamgara’s pain had radiated to the rest of his back and thighs as well.
Almost all Americans have back problems at one time or another. You might sleep awkwardly or tighten your back while lifting something heavy. Or, like Bhamgara, you could injure your back in an accident. But often, says physiotherapist Eric Robertson, DPT, the culprit is too much sitting and not moving enough.
“We are largely a sedentary society, and therefore this sedentary lifestyle is the main thing we have to work on,” says Robertson, also a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). “So any kind of movement exercise, walking, working with a physiotherapist to give you a personalized personalized program is a great idea.
When Bhamgara went to see doctors, physiotherapists and chiropractors to find out what to expect with her recovery, they gave her conflicting opinions. It could take 6 to 12 weeks, she heard, or it could take a full year before she returns to normal.
“I was mostly in bed after the pain started,” Bhamgara says. She had inflammation of the thighs up to behind the knees, groin, buttocks, lower back and sometimes in the shoulders.
Confused and worried, Bhamgara tried a host of treatments to ease her pain. She went to physiotherapy twice a week. She received trigger point massage and acupuncture, which she says helped.
Bhamgara is now on the mend. She understands that it will take time and effort to fully heal and control her inflammation.
APTA’s Robertson says feeling better with back pain doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some effective steps:
Avoid bed rest. Studies show that lying down too much can slow recovery and increase pain.
“Over the past 25 years or so, the only thing we’ve definitely learned about back pain and bed rest is that it’s not OK,” says William Lauretti, DC, associate professor at New York Chiropractic College and spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. Instead, “you want to be as active as possible with your back pain.”
Move. You might not want to move when you’re in pain, but it’s important to do whatever you can handle.
Robertson says most back pain isn’t serious, although it can be quite painful. “So not to be afraid of movement and to keep moving despite the pain is something really important,” he says. Walking is a good choice that you can make on your own. You can also work with a physiotherapist to learn how to spot hazards. the pain levels and movements that are best for you.
Maintain good posture. Pay attention to the way you hold your back when you sit, stand, walk, sleep, or do daily activities. Good posture is when all of the bones in your spine are properly aligned. Poor posture can make your back stiff and tense. This often leads to back pain.
Lauretti offers these posture tips:
- Don’t sit in bed hunched over your laptop. It’s a sure-fire recipe for back pain over time.
- If you have to sit for a long time, use padded chairs. Rigid seats will not support your back and may prevent you from sitting up straight.
- Use a comfortable desk and chair if you need them while you work.
Here are some general tips for maintaining good posture:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Tuck your stomach in when you are standing.
- If you’re standing for too long, regularly shift your weight from foot to foot and from your toes to heels.
- Roll your shoulders back.
- Let your arms hang naturally over the sides of your body.
Sleep smart. The ideal bed, says Lauretti, is one that is “comfortable for you.” As for the best sleeping posture, he says that on your side or on your back is easier on your back than sleeping on your stomach. If you’re face down on the ground, your head will be turned all night so you can breathe, which can lead to neck pain.
Bhamgara says tucking a pillow between her legs to help align her hips alleviates her back pain.
Relax. Back pain can be linked to stress, tension, and other non-physical issues, Robertson says. Massage and acupuncture can help relax muscles. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can help you improve your mood, stretch your muscles, and relax so you can better manage your back pain.
Bhamgara says the mediation made her feel alive, especially when her back pain made it painful to move around.
“I would think about healing every square inch of my body,” she said. “There were times when I imagined myself walking in a park with my headphones on and just dancing!” It brought me life.
Call your doctor. If your back pain does not go away after 4 weeks, or if you experience long-term pain that lasts beyond 12 weeks and prevents you from continuing with your daily activities, see your doctor. They can help identify the cause of your pain and may suggest new therapies. Seek immediate medical attention if your legs are tingling, numb, or weak.
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