As a Physical Therapist, I am asked a lot of questions about low back pain. With so much information available to us online from various sources - both reliable and unreliable, both too general and too specific, it is hard to know what to believe is truth or the best practice for most individuals. These are general guidelines to get you started based upon the common questions I am asked.
I know I have a lot of comfy places to sit at home, couch, recliner, love seat and this is often where I end up sitting at the end of the day. I have had many patients come and say they sit on their couch with their feet on the coffee table or sit in their recliner with their feet up. They say, it feels great while sitting there, then it is painful getting up due to low back pain. This is because your spine is flexed or rounded especially when you have your feet up. This is one position you want to try and avoid at home. Try to sit with your feet on the floor and try not to slouch when sitting at home. Try sitting in a more upright chair, kitchen chair or dining room chair. I know these aren’t as comfortable but they are better for your back.
Ice or heat?
If you just hurt your back yesterday, then ice is the answer. Ice is good for new or acute injuries for 24-48 hours. Ice helps to decrease the blood flow to the area which helps to decrease pain and inflammation. If an area is swollen or bruised, use ice. Now if you have had back pain for years, the muscles in your low back are tight and sore, then heat may help with your pain. The heat increases blood flow to the area to help bring more nutrients and oxygen to the area. It can also help to calm down any muscle spasms in the low back and surrounding areas. For more help and information on icing and heating, learn When to Use Heat vs Ice.
Many times when people think about strengthening their core muscles to help prevent back pain and injuries, crunches often come to mind. With crunches you are flexing or bending the spine repetitively and if you have your hands behind your head and neck you may be straining your neck at the same time. We bend forward many times during the day and the last thing your spine needs is more bending forward and at a quick speed. If you want to strengthen your core finding an exercise that keeps your back in a neutral position or supported position is the best way to start strengthening your core to prevent back injuries.
Often times when we have pain, this keeps us from moving. With back pain often times I have patients that say, “I haven’t done much in the past few days besides sit and lay down because of my pain.” Walking is great exercise and keeps your spine in good alignment. If you think about it is pretty hard to slouch and not have good posture when walking. Your back is happiest when you aligned and have the three curves maintained in your spine. More often than not, walking and movement can help with your back pain.
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