Whether it’s from lifting heavy objects at work or around the house, an athletic injury or injury from strenuous activity, lower back pain affects many of us at some point in our lives. Low back pain can result from an acute injury or from chronic overuse that leads to arthritis. This, in turn, can break down the fluid-filled disks in your spine that act as shock absorbers. Whatever the cause, there are some practices you can do to strengthen your back and keep lower back pain at bay.
Rethink your workspace
If you work at a desk job all day, you might have some areas of your workstation to thank for your back pain. Evaluating your space to make it more ergonomic (back friendly), can help you gain lower back pain relief and prevent pain from getting worse. Rethinking your workspace for back relief starts with positioning your most important work tools.
Your chair – Your chair should be at a height where your feet rest fully and flat on the floor. Your knees should also be level with your hips. If the back rest in your desk chair doesn’t adequately support your back, a small lumbar pillow or rolled-up towel to place in your lower back curve could help.
Your computer monitors – Looking too high or too low at your monitor can affect your posture and therefore contribute to lower back pain. Your monitor should be about an arm’s length away from your chair with the top portion of the screen just a small amount below eye level. An ergonomic desk is rarely enough. You’ll also need to get up frequently and take walking breaks to relieve muscle tension.
Key objects – If frequently used objects are too far out of arm’s reach, it can result in repeated twisting that can strain your lower back. To avoid this, keep things you use the most within easy reach. This could include your phone, stapler, pens, notepads, or anything else that gets regular use. If something is too large or heavy to keep near your keyboard, place it where you have to stand to get it to help you resist the urge to twist
Eat for bone health
A healthy diet is important for several reasons when you have lower back pain. First, eating well can help you maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra strain on your lower back, adding to your pain. Second, a diet that’s high in key nutrients can help promote bone growth and keep your bones strong. These must-have nutrients include:
Calcium – Foods high in calcium include dairy products, such as yogurt, milk, cheese, and frozen yogurt. If you don’t (or can’t) eat dairy, some foods are fortified with calcium, such as cereal, orange juice, oatmeal, and nondairy milks. Veggies like collard greens, kale, bok choy, and broccoli also have calcium.
Phosphorus – Dairy products are high in phosphorus. Other foods with phosphorus include baked beans, kidney beans, black beans, bran cereals, sardines, and dark colas.
Vitamin D – Foods high in vitamin D include cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, fortified milk, sardines, eggs, and fortified cereals.
Sleeping in an awkward position can contribute to back pain. The best sleeping position for lower back pain may be sleeping on your side with your knees drawn up close to your chest (also known as the fetal position). Placing a pillow or two between your legs, while sleeping on your side, helps to reduce stress on your lower back. Sleeping on a too soft mattress can also cause lower back pain.
According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, there is strong evidence that yoga can have a short-term effect on treating lower back pain. Yoga involves slow, controlled movements to stretch and strengthen the body. This exercise form also promotes stress relief, which can help reduce tension you may commonly hold in your lower back.
The Child’s Pose is a yoga position that is especially beneficial for the back. To perform Child’s Pose, start on all fours, then stretch back, resting your bottom on your feet. Your arms should stay extended with your hands on the floor. This creates a stretch in your lower back. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then return to your starting position. Repeat five times.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture may be effective for treating moderate, chronic lower back pain. While this practice of inserting small, thin needles into the body to restore energy flow may seem daunting at first, acupuncture can stimulate the release of pain-relieving chemicals in the body.
Lower back pain can be a chronic and debilitating condition. Small, daily actions can either help or worsen your discomfort. By taking steps to strengthen, stretch, and protect your back, you can ideally stop or slow pain.
However, severe cases of low back pain can’t always be fixed by lifestyle changes. If your lower back pain interferes with your ability to perform everyday activities, talk to your doctor.