Try Managing Back Pain Conservatively First

Do you struggle with nagging pain in your lower back? Don’t worry you aren’t alone. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), approximately 85 % of people will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime.

Back pain is:

  • the second most frequent reason for visits to a family physician after the common cold
  • the second most common neurological ailment in the U.S.
  • the most common job-related disability

Lower back pain isn’t a disease; it’s a symptom that can occur as a result of a variety of different processes. It’s often caused by a combination of overuse, muscle strain, and injury to our backbones (spine) and/or the structures that support the spine, which include muscles, ligaments, and discs. These processes may occur during the course of day-to-day life as a result of repetitive activities like lifting and carrying objects or sitting at a desk for prolonged periods.

“With the cost for treating low back pain being extremely high, we’re fortunate there are ways to manage or even prevent it,” said CVMC Director for Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, Jeremy Frye PT, DPT.

Before having surgery, Jeremy advises patients to consider these more conservative ways to manage and prevent back pain:

  • Try physical therapy. A growing amount of research suggests physical therapy decreases back pain, increase function, and teaches the patient a maintenance program to prevent future back problems. Most importantly it’s less expensive and less risky than surgery.
  • Stay physically fit and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise helps reduce pain, improves subsequent function in the lower back and reduces the likelihood of future occurrences of low back pain. Being overweight, especially in the mid-section, shifts your entire center of gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles.
  • Practice proper posture and safe movement while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like bending, lifting, twisting, pulling, or reaching. Good posture means, the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are correctly aligned. This results in less stress and strain on muscles, joints, and ligaments, and a reduced risk for back strain or injury and the resulting pain.

“Proper posture and back strength can be achieved through mental practice or imagery and by regular performance of a few simple exercises,” said Jeremy Frye PT, DPT.

Here are 5 simple exercises Jeremy suggests:

  1. Mental practice/imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be in alignment).
  2. Chin tucks. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Hold your head upright. Pull your chin in toward your neck.
  3. Shoulder blade pinches. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Abdominal contractions. Begin this exercise lying down then progress to standing, sitting and eventually with functional activities. Inhale; then exhale slowly gently pulling your lower abdominal muscles up and in, as if moving your belly button toward your backbone.
  5. Corner stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised and hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. Lean your body toward the corner.

If you are experiencing persistent lower back pain, consult with your primary care physician on the best treatment option for you. For more information or for a tour of CVMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, please call 828.326.2131.