All it takes is one wrong move at the gym to push your spine beyond its limits. That one strain on your back can leave you with a debilitating lower back injury for days or even weeks at a time.
We've put together a list of seven simple ideas to help you manage the pain of an injury to your lower back and prevent injuries in the future.
1. Take It Easy, but Keep It Moving
During your recovery from a lower back injury, do your best to avoid overly strenuous physical activity. This is extra important when it comes to any activities that caused your back pain in the first place.
However, this doesn't mean you should go on bed rest for the next month. Yes, you should avoid going overboard. But mild exercise is great for getting rid of back pain.
What's a good balance?
At the very least, try to walk a lot. Getting out of your bed or off your couch will put your spine in a neutral position, which is the first step in the right direction.
Simple movements like walking can also give your muscles a mild stretch. That'll help them relax and stop hurting so much.
The best part about mild exercise is that it makes your brain release endorphins. Endorphins reduce the amount of pain that your brain perceives. Plus, they send positive, happy signals all over your body.
2. Rearrange Your Space
The average American spends almost eight hours a day sitting down. Much of that time is spent working at a desk, hunched over.
If you're dealing with a lower back injury, you can rearrange your workspace to improve your posture.
- Sit all the way back in your chair. Your hips should be right up against the back of the seat.
- Adjust the seat height so that your feet can touch the floor easily.
- Make sure the computer monitor sits at eye level. Laptops tend to cause more back pain because they require you to look down at the screen.
- Keep your most-used items within close reach. Bending over repeatedly to pick things up can cause more strain to your lower back.
Most importantly, take breaks often to stand up and walk around. Too much time in a seated position will cause your back injury to flare up and stick around longer.
3. Watch How You Sleep
The way you sleep during recovery also has a huge effect on your lower back pain. Consider making some adjustments to your sleep habits.
- Sleep on your side, with your knees slightly tucked in.
- Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips squared and your spine neutral.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you can't sleep any other way, put the pillow under your stomach to ease the strain on your back.
- If you sleep on your back, place the pillow underneath your knees.
Improving the quality of your sleep will speed up your recovery and help you wake up feeling refreshed.
4. Use Hot & Cold Therapy
Immediately after an injury to your lower back, doctors recommend applying ice for the first two days. After those first 48 hours, you can alternate between applying hot and cold packs to relieve pain.
Applying something cold to your back can relieve some of the pain by constricting blood vessels, which makes the muscles less inflamed.
Applying something mildly hot to your back can relieve pain expanding blood vessels, which improves the circulation of nutrients to the area. This speeds up your recovery and relieves soreness.
Whether you're using hot or cold to treat your pain, make sure to limit the amount of time you're holding it against your back. Limit either one to about 10 minutes at a time. Also, make sure to take breaks for about 10 minutes in between applications.
5. Change Your Shoes
We often sacrifice comfort in the name of style. This contributes to our back pain and often makes it harder to recover.
This is especially important if you're used to wearing high heeled shoes or flip-flops. High heels give your body an unstable support, which strains your lower back. Flip-flops or completely flat-soled shoes offer no support at all. This can also put unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
Wearing shoes with little support occasionally won't do much damage to your back. However, wearing shoes like that regularly can hurt you in the long run.
Consider switching to shoes that offer comfortable support. If those don't fit your style, you can also try inserting orthopedic soles into your shoes to make them more supportive.
6. Try Yoga
Yoga is a practice that has lasted hundreds of years for a reason. Yoga can relieve your lower back pain following an injury because it helps your body release tightness in the muscles.
It also offers a lot of variety. Several moves can strengthen your back, which is great for preventing back injury in the future. Other moves simply stretch you out.
The practice of strengthening and relaxing your body at the same time is also great for relieving stress. Stress can add to your back pain by keeping your muscles tensed for long periods of time.
Here are some yoga poses to try for your back pain:
- Cat and Cow Stretches
- Child's Pose
- Downward-Facing Dog
- Fish Pose
- Plow Pose
- Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Stretching on a regular basis will ease your pain and prevent lower back injuries in the future.
7. Manage Your Weight
Generally speaking, you can reduce the risk of future back injuries by keeping your weight within a healthy range for your age and height. Being overweight puts excess pressure on your whole body, especially your spine.
A balanced diet and moderate exercise can significantly reduce your risk for back pain and improve your health overall.
Dealing with a Lower Back Injury
If you've ever had a lower back injury, you know how frustrating it can be. These tips will help ease your pain over time, but there's no overnight solution. Be patient with yourself and your body.
Visit our site for more information on pain prevention and back supports.