Simple Steps to Eliminate Back Pain

Low back - male 48A few days ago a coworker came to me complaining of low back pain.  You know the drill: Stabbing pain with forward bending, spasms grabbing when you move too fast, a sensation that your legs will give out on you when walking down stairs and the agonizing stiffness that comes when you try to stand up after sitting.  Pain in the back no fun and it can literally change your life…for the worse!

As I explained simple steps to help his back pains, I realized how common it is for most adults to have low back pain with little knowledge how to get back pain relief.  I saw it as a great example to share with my readers.   Here are my helpful tips to decrease low back pain and regain the active lifestyle we all enjoy.

Common Symptoms of a Low Back Injury

Spasm – Secondary to pain and the body’s need to protect itself, your brain will fire-up muscles around the spine to involuntarily contract to stabilize and protect the spine.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to Ctrl/Alt/Delete the spasms off!

Pain – There are many types of back pain based on the type of tissue (disk, nerve, bone, muscle, ligament or fascia) causing the pain.  The pain can range from stabbing, aching, shooting, pain down the leg, leg numbness, “catching” in the back and/or general tightness throughout the low back and hips.

Weakness – Low back, hips, Abs and/or leg.

Uncertainty – The concerning sense that you don’t have control of your back and it could “just give out” on you at any time is stressful.

Tightness – The inability to stand erect with proper posture to function normally in life, especially after sitting for a period of time.

Tips for Back Pain Relief

I want to share with you the tips I gave my friend that will both decrease your symptoms and improve your function when suffering from pain in the back.

Sleep Hard – Sleep on a very hard surface, even if it’s the floor. Unless bouncing on the bed with a glass of red wine balancing on the other side of your bed is part of your nightly foreplay routine, I suggest you get off the memory foam bed for a couple of weeks.  Having your entire back stabilized on a hard surface is just what you need.  Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees or sleeping on your back with pillows under your knees are my suggestions for smart sleep positions with low back pain.

Stretch the Hammies – This is a key step to eliminating low back pain. Flexible hamstrings allow your pelvis to move into positions it WANTS to be in to get away from the pain.  With tight hamstrings, the pelvis is anchored down and most of the movement associated with the core tends to come from the low back, which becomes more painful.

Strengthen the Abs – Your abdominal muscles or “Abs” are the workhorses of the back and pelvis. Strong Abs absorb a large chunk of the force applied to the low back while they support the front half of the spine.  To make the Abs strong when the back is sore, focus on variations of crunches to do this. With crunches, I like to keep 3 body parts in direct contact with the floor to both minimize the risk of injury and to isolate the Abs: Feet, Butt & Low Back.

Great Body Mechanics – Like I told my friend, most people don’t hurt their back lifting a car off an elderly lady.  They “throw their back out” tying their shoe or picking up the newspaper.  To keep it simple, good body mechanics is defined as maintaining a strong “C Curve” in the low back with the open side of the “C” facing backwards.  If is faces the front when the spine is looked at from the side view, that is “slouching” with poor posture.  If you maintain this Good Curve with everything you do from sitting to picking up your children to brushing your teeth, your back will thank you.

Ice/Heat? – I’ll make it easy to remember: For the first week after suffering a back injury, only apply ICE to your back.  After the first week, if you have any spasms, pain, and/or pain down the leg, stay with ICE.  If your only complaint is “tightness” and you want to loosen up the back, HEAT is your best option.  If every in doubt, go with ICE.  Remember, ICE is not comfortable and it will make your back tight for a short period of time after a treatment.  That’s okay when your objective is to decrease inflammation and pain.

Medications – As you know from reading my blog posts, I’m not a big fan of popping pills.  I’m a strong believer that my body doesn’t want to be in pain and, if I keep it strong, allow it to move properly, fuel it with healthy nutrition and listen to what it’s telling me, it will do a damn good job managing much of the pain.  If you feel you need pain medicine or anti-inflammatory medicine, I suggest you talk to your doctor about the options.

Ending Back Pains…..

Low back pain can be one of the most debilitating injuries for both athletes and couch potatoes.  The tips in this article will prove to be helpful for both managing a back injury and for preventing back pain when your back is feeling great.  Low back pain finds 80% of us in our lifetime so applying this advice may help you hang out with the fun 20% with the happy backs.

3 Simple Steps Guaranteed to Reduce Low Back Pain

LOW BACK THERAPY STARTS BEFORE THE INJURY

I feel so strongly about my low back rehab plan that I’m going to guarantee it will reduce your low back pain!

Low back pain will affect 80% of the population at sometime in their life.  Does that mean you should take a passive role and worry about the issues related to the injury when the time comes?  No!!  Being proactive and addressing the three common factors related to the injury is the smart approach and the typical method of managing injuries at MikeRyanSportsMedicine.com.

Proactive Pre-Hab

Preventative Rehabilitation or “Pre-Hab” is what wise sports medicine specialists utilize when working with elite athletes.  Determining areas of concern such as bilateral asymmetry, poor biomechanics, overly tight and hyperactive muscles/connective tissue, overly elongated and hypoactive muscles/connective tissue and/or poor posture are potential factors.

Finding potential problems and implementing a plan to improve these conditions is the basic premise of what I do every day with my athletes.  Low back therapy is one of the most challenging yet rewarding components of sports medicine.

The Benefits of Proactive Pre-Hab

When an athlete reduces or eliminates a negative factor such as an overly tight muscle or poor posture that is contributing to the symptoms, he/she will benefit in four ways:

1.  Their performance will be enhanced.

2.  They reduce the need to subconsciously compensate which will greatly reduces potential soft tissue issues elsewhere in the body.

3.  The area of concern is less prone to injury.

4.  If an injury does occur, the injury will be much less severe.

Danger Zones for Low Back Pain

In my opinion, most non-traumatic low back injuries are related to three factors.  If you focus on improving these three factors, you will gain the upper hand on preventing low back pain.  In most cases, it’s that simple.

1.  Poor Hamstring Flexibility – Too much time sitting and too little time elongating the hammys.

2.  Functionally Weak Abs – The lower abs are the key.  If you strengthen this area of your rectus abdominus, from your navel down to the front of your pelvis, you’ll be able very happy with the results.

3.  Poor Body Mechanics – It’s simply about being lazy.  From tying your shoes to picking something off the ground to sitting in a chair, poor body mechanics and poor posture is killing your lumbar disc.  Meanwhile, the disc provides no neurological feedback about it’s injury….until it’s too late.

Three Steps to Avoid or Reduce Low Back Pain

As you can imagine, these three steps of low back therapy are based on solving the three problem areas previously noted.

Step #1 – Increase Hamstring Flexibility

This may not be the fun and exciting exercise that your friends are bragging about but it may prove to be one of the most important activity of your day if staying healthy is part of your master plan.

“Lead With the Navel”

To Do: Bear with me on this one…..With your foot on a low step/chair approximately 2 feet off the floor, keep your elevated leg straight with your pelvis “squared” and facing your raised foot.  While maintaining a lordotic or “sway back” curve in your low back and your shoulders back, slowly lean forward leading with your navel to a comfortable hamstring stretch position and “freeze like a stone statue”, as I explain to my pro football players.

Using a chair or wall to help stabilize yourself, perform 5 slow and deep breaths and relax the body.  Perform for 3-5 reps of 5 breaths with the focus on maintaining the sway back position of the low back , leading with the navel and slooow breathing.

Step #2 – Improve Ab Strength from the Ribs to the Pelvis

You have six main groups of Abs and none of them go over the hip joints or shoulder joints.  Therefore, many of the exercises and fancy “Ab machines” typically force your body to compensate with other muscles instead of isolating the Abs.

To Do: Performing multiple Ab exercises to include planks, good-ol’ crunches with the feet on the ground, pelvis rolls with feet on the ground, side-lying raises, med ball throws and crunch twists are great exercises to be performed on a firm surface when applying the following key points:

  • Exhale HARD, FAST & COMPLETE with every rep.
  • Hold the end position for all moves while performing a solid 2 second isometric contraction at the end of the range,
  • Perform all reps slow and controlled throughout the complete range of motion in both directions for reps of 15.
  • Keep the rest phase between all Ab exercises very short (20-30 seconds) to maximize the fatigue of all the muscles.

Step #3 – Master Your Body Mechanics

Low Back Anatomy Lesson 101: The back discs in your entire spine have no internal nerve receptors.  Only the very outer edge of the disc has the ability to perceive pain.  Therefore, poor body mechanics can be ruining your back and literally grind up the all-important discs of the low back or neck with no warning signs or “head’s up, your killing your back” text messages.

To Do: Maintain a low back “C Curve” with the open section of the “C” facing backwards for all your activities, period.  That means when you sit in your car, when you tie your shoes, when you’re getting off the toilet, when you bend over to brush your teeth,…etc.  It sounds simple and it is when you focus on doing it consistently.  Think about how many people you know that “threw their back out” doing very simple activities.

Back saving tip: Never, never, never tie your shoeslaces with your foot on the ground.  It creates massively high intradiscal pressure in your low back and you don’t want that.   Instead, put your foot up on a chair or box to put your back and pelvis in a safe position to tie those fancy new sneakers.

In closing, I hope this opens your eyes to simple ways to avoid lumbar pain with an active lifestyle.  The goal of this article is to keep you in that happy 20% of the population that never experiences low back pain.  Focussing on the MRF motto (Keep it simple, easy to understand and producing fast results), apply these 3 simple steps daily and enjoy the ride.