When you have low back pain, it seems that everyone has advise. But what helps your Aunt Sara isn’t likely to help you, and visa versa. That is because as our spines age, the injuries were are susceptible change as well. It’s important to see your physical therapist or doctor, to make sure you are not causing more harm than good. But in the meantime, here are some general self care tips.
1. Listen to your body. Pain is a signal, just like the warning light in your car, that you need to do something. If sitting bothers your back pain, then limit sitting to 15 to 20 minutes. Less if you start feeling back. Stand up, walk around a bit and then resume doing what you were doing.
2. Rest with your legs and hips in a 90 degree position (unless you are pregnant or have other medical issues that would make it unwise to do so). This will decrease the pressure on your spine and allow your back to relax. Bed rest is rarely recommended, but taking breaks throughout the day can make a big difference. While you are lying down, you may want to use a heating pad for 10-15 minutes. Make sure you have enough layers between you and the heating pad so as not to cause burns to the skin. Never fall asleep on a heating pad, or use one if your skin’s sensation is impaired.
3. Try a cold pack. Lying on your back to ice your back is not recommended for your safety and the safety of your cold pack. If you are going to use a cold pack, lie on your stomach with a pillow under your hips and lower abdomen, placing the cold pack on top with a towel between you and the cold pack.
4. Avoid lifting, bending, and twisting your back. These activities are high risk for injury and re-injury. If you must lift something, make sure it is light (less than 10 pounds) and keep the object as close to you as possible. Just remember how heavy a bowling ball is with your arms out straight in front of you compared to keeping it close to your middle. The farther away from your body the object is, the greater the strain on your back and likelihood that it will increase your low back pain.
5. Move. If you can, get up and walk around. It’s better to walk for 5 minutes, 4 times a day and not aggravate your pain than it is to walk 15-20 minutes and end up being in so much pain you can’t move.
Common Mistakes That Could Make Your Low Back Pain Worse
If you continue to experience low back pain for more than a few days, make sure you see a professional who specialized in spine care. Injuries left unattended can lead to more severe pain or become worse. Make sure your treatment includes teaching you how to manage your pain, not become dependent on a practitioner. Expect to learn something new at every visit, find techniques to get lasting pain relief and return to doing the activities you love.