10 Ways to Manage Low Back Pain at Home
Approximately one in four Americans say they’ve experienced lower back pain, and almost all adults can expect to have back pain at some point in their lives. In cases of serious injury, or numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs, call your doctor.
But for routine and mild lower back pain, here are a few simple tips to try at home:
- Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation. Warmth feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, but the heat actually makes the inflammation worse. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat. Whether using heat or ice, give your skin a rest about every 20 minutes. If pain persists, talk with your doctor.
- Keep moving. Our spines are like the rest of our body, they’re meant to move. Keep your daily routine and activities. Once you’re feeling better, regular low impact exercises like swimming, bicycling, and walking can keep you, and your back more mobile. Just don’t overdo it.
- Stay strong. To help prevent future episodes of back pain work the muscles that support your lower back. This helps you maintain proper posture and alignment of your spine. Strengthening the hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles also gives you better back support. Avoid abdominal crunches, because they actually put more strain on your back.
- Stretch. Because most of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our jobs, it’s important to stand up and stretch backward throughout the day. Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way, and don’t forget to also stretch your legs. Some people find relief by doing a regular stretching routine, like yoga.
- Think ergonomically. Use a chair that supports your lower back, and keep your feet planted firmly on the floor. Organize your workspace so you don’t have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach far for your mouse.
- Watch your posture. Be especially careful when lifting heavy objects. Never bend from the waist, instead bend and straighten from the knees. Also, slumping makes it harder for your back to support your weight.
- Wear low heels. Heels higher than 1 inch can create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine. Time to exchange those four-inch pumps for flats or low heels.
- Kick the habit. Recent research found that smokers are more likely to have lower back pain than nonsmokers. It can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine, which can lead to compression fractures of the spine and other bone problems.
- Watch your weight. Being overweight puts extra stress on your back. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise to keep your weight within an appropriate range for your height.
- Use an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium can help reduce your back pain. Be sure to check with your doctor about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking.
Call your doctor if:
- Your lower back pain is severe, doesn’t go away after a few days, or it hurts even when you’re at rest or lying down.
- You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking.
- You lose control over your bowels or bladder.
- These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.