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Back Pain Self-care

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Maintaining good posture, using natural and alternative therapies, getting exercise, losing weight and relieving stress are different ways to reduce back pain.

Posture

Maintaining good posture can help reduce stress and ease discomfort in your back. Here are some techniques to try.

When Sitting

  • Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back. You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks.

  • Place a small cushion behind your lower back to help maintain the natural curve of the back.

  • Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips. Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.

  • Don’t sit for long periods of time. Stand up and move around periodically to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.

When Standing

  • Stand with your weight equally distributed on both feet.

  • Place one foot on a footstool to ease tension in your back.

  • Wear flat or low-heeled shoes if you stand for long periods of time.

  • Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks and doing a pelvic tilt.

When Lifting and Carrying Objects

  • Bend and lift using your knees and legs instead of your back.

  • Hold the object close to you.

  • Straighten your legs to lift the object.

  • Get help to lift objects that are too heavy.

When Sleeping

  • Sleep on a firm mattress.

  • Place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.

  • Do not sleep on your stomach.           

  • If you do not have knee problems, you may try placing a pillow under your knees when lying on your back.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat can help relieve back pain by relaxing muscles and soothing painful areas 48 hours after the pain begins. Some safe, effective options include hot showers or baths, warm compresses, hot water bottles, heat wraps, heating pads, warm-water therapy and hydromassage. If you have arthritis, warming your muscles first may make it easier for you to do back exercises. Sometimes, a healthcare professional may recommend applying cold to your back when pain is acute or severe, or after you exercise.

Exercise

There are stretching and flexibility exercises that may help to alleviate pressure on the back and loosen tight muscles. These include yoga and tai chi.  Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Weight Loss

The doctor may recommend weight loss as one way to reduce your back pain and improve your general health. The best way to lose weight is by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Be sure to avoid fad diets or quick weight-loss programs.

Natural and Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture may provide back pain relief. The practice involves inserting very fine metal needles into your skin at specific points, but not necessarily the area that’s bothering you. For example, back pain may be treated by stimulating points in your feet. Make sure you are treated by a certified acupuncturist.

Massage is also a great way to reduce pain. It can be done by massage therapists or some physical therapists.

A licensed chiropractor can provide spinal manipulation that can help with back pain.  But be aware that this procedure should not be done in individuals with inflammatory back pain such as ankylosing spondylitis. Spinal manipulation of the neck is also potentially dangerous in older individuals who have an increased risk of stroke.

Stress Relief

Here are some ways to reduce daily stress that may cause you to tighten shoulder and back muscles and worsen pain.

  • Soak in a warm bath, hot tub or spa.

  • Get involved in a hobby.

  • Do therapeutic exercise such as yoga or tai chi after getting clearance from your doctor.

  • Plan fun and relaxing activities with your family or friends.

  • Learn to accept what you cannot change instead of feeling constantly frustrated.

  • Consider getting professional help for problems that you are unable to handle on your own.

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