Anyone with low back pain can tell you how miserable it is. Low back pain can be one of those mysterious terms that means you can pick up sticks in your yard, but you can’t tie your shoes. Maybe you’ve already injured yourself enough that it’s painful to even move at all.
This was the situation that greeted me when I went to a party this past Halloween. One of the guys is a forklift operator. He’s in his 40s, good health, no real problems, then he bent over to tie his shoe one day and his back went out.
This is extremely common! You can put your body through ridiculous challenges like heavy lifting or lots of rotation, but the thing that will drop you to your knees will be something small like tying your shoes.
Before we talk about how to get rid of low back pain, it’s important to understand what it is and how it showed up in the first place.
What causes low back pain?
Low back pain is an unwelcome visitor. Out of nowhere, it shows up and makes itself at home in your body. At first, it is just an inconvenience. When will this go away? Sometimes it goes away for a couple days and then returns. Ultimately, you end up wondering What do I have to do to get rid of this forever?
The lumbar spine, or low back, is susceptible to injury. There are many spinal muscles that perform various functions like connecting vertebrae to each other up the chain of the spine and performing motions like rotation, flexion, and extension. To the left is a picture of these spinal muscles. You will notice that spinal muscles are present in a third to half of our back. It is quite an elaborate system to keep the spine stable.
There are also muscles like the psoas, which connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur (thigh bone) to work as a hip flexor. The quadratus lumborum, frequently referred to as the QL, does not insert or attach to the vertebrae, but runs beside the spine and connects the pelvis to the rib cage.
There are 3 main reasons why I think the low back is so easily injured.
- The lumbar spine does not have any other bony structure (such as the rib cage) for additional support.
- Many of our organs are located in front of the spine in the space between our rib cage and pelvis. Supporting the weight of these organs can be very challenging to the stability of the spine.
- With so many attached muscles moving in different directions, it is easy for one tight muscle to pull a vertebra out of place.
How can I get rid of low back pain?
There are obvious ways to get rid of low back pain: lose weight, strengthen your core, lift heavy objects by putting a good bend in your knees and keeping the object close to your chest, warm up before doing activity, wear sensible shoes with good support, get massages, use tennis balls or rollers to loosen up the muscles, and go to the chiropractor. All of this is really good advice. I highly recommend it. You have probably heard all of that before, so I’m going to talk about other things you can do.
As always, going to your doctor is the best thing to do if you are in pain. Doctors can prescribe imaging to tell you if you have specific problems or injuries. This can prevent you from further injuring yourself. They can also prescribe medicines to help you feel better. I am not a medical professional, so please, take my advice as just that. If something seems wrong, go see your doctor.
Now, this is a ranked list with #1 being the most important thing that I think you should do.
- Pay attention to your posture and alignment in every thing that you do. When you are driving, watching TV, brushing your teeth, getting food from the fridge–literally, everything you do–pay attention! If you have not started paying attention to what your body is doing while your mind is working, start now. Notice how you stand at the sink or in the store. Now, realign yourself. For more information, I wrote some articles on neutral alignment while standing, sitting, and on your hands and knees. Be aware that neck injury can accompany low back injury. When the neck or low back is out of alignment, the compensation curve will often happen in the other spot. This can easily cause problems in both areas, so when you’re paying attention to your posture, be sure that you notice your whole spine through the top of your head.
- Forward bend. If you do not have a bulging disc, bending and relaxing forward is very therapeutic for your spine. In yoga, it’s called Uttanasana. Make sure to keep a soft bend in the back of your knees. By doing this stretch while standing, you allow gravity to help you and create a natural traction for your spine. Traction will help stretch the tight muscles, allowing space to come between the vertebrae again and relieve any pain from compressed nerves. However, if you do this when you have a bulging disc, you run the risk of making your back injury worse.
- Do Imprint and check your rib cage placement. By doing this, you are making sure that your ribs and hips are aligned to make a cylinder. This will make it much easier for your abdominals to work correctly. When the abdominals work correctly, they contain your organs within your body cavity and provide appropriate support for your low back. Increased efficiency of the abdominals will lead to greater core strength.
- Do some gentle spinal rotation. Allowing your legs to windshield wiper back and forth is a great way to warm up the muscles needed for rotation. Next, come onto your side and allow your upper body to rotate open while keeping your pelvis stable. Then, come onto your back and allow your pelvis and legs to rotate to one side then the other while keeping your rib cage still.
- Sometimes, the location of the pain is not the cause of the pain. Nerves are very complex. A pinched nerve over here could result in a pain over there. When trying to relieve back pain, never presume that the spot where you feel pain is the spot that needs to be fixed. It is very likely that while you may feel pain in only one spot, many spinal muscles, glutes, and the hamstrings could benefit from a good stretch.
Get rid of low back pain video
Here is a video that explains some things to do get rid of low back pain.
What are some things that you do to relieve low back pain? Let us know in the comments below.
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