15 Ways to Stop Lumbar Pain from Ruining Your Workday
Do you ever find yourself rubbing at a sore back halfway through the workday? Does an aspirin bottle live on your desk, and have you ever found that it takes you a minute to get up from your desk? Lumbar pain can make it hard to make it through the workday, not to mention any of the rest of your life.
But the good news is you don’t have to live with lumbar pain forever. Read on to discover how to get through your workday pain-free!
1. Focus on Good Posture
One of the best things you can do to relieve lower back pain is to focus on good posture. Many of us spend our days slouching in office chairs and hunching over computer keyboards. These unnatural positions can place strain on your lower back and even pinch nerves, sending pain radiating down your back.
When you’re sitting at your desk, make sure your workspace is ergonomically arranged. At home, try to sit up straight rather than slouching on the couch. And when you’re walking around, roll your shoulders back, and focus on standing up to your full height.
2. Use Ice or Heat
If you’ve experienced a recent back injury, you may have pain and swelling in the area. Placing an ice pack on the injured area can help to keep swelling down and relieve pain. You may also want to talk to your doctor to make sure your injury doesn’t need more serious treatment.
If your back is generally achy, you may want to apply heat to help relieve pain. Heat can help to relax strained muscles there and gently release any muscle spasms. Whether you’re using ice or heat, make sure you don’t use it for longer than twenty minutes at a time to prevent damage to your skin.
3. Stretch It Out
When your back is aching, the last thing you want to do may be to stretch out those aching muscles. But it can actually help to relax some of that tension and realign your spine. Making stretching part of your daily routine can also help to prevent muscle tension that leaves your back aching.
Start by lying flat on your back on the floor and gently pulling one knee, then the other, up towards your chest. Then roll to your hands and knees and do the yoga cat-cow stretch, arching your back upwards like a cat and then curving it down towards the floor. You can also sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and reach forwards towards your feet, using a towel wrapped around your feet to gently tug yourself down into the stretch.
4. Pick the Right Shoes
Your shoes can also have a serious impact on whether your lower back hurts. When you wear high heels, it tilts your hips forwards, accentuating the curve at the base of your spine. This can place more pressure on your lower back, causing it to ache the longer you wear the shoes.
Flip flops and backless sandals can also cause your back to hurt. Your heel isn’t secure in these shoes, and it can slide back and forth as you walk. You may have to tense the muscles in your hips and lower back to compensate for the lack of stability, causing your lumbar region to ache.
5. Maintain a Healthy Weight
When we carry extra weight, it places more strain on our joints than they’re meant to carry. If you carry your weight in your midsection, this can place even more strain on your lower back. The extra weight tugs your hips forward, compressing your lower back.
Make sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Avoid fad diets, as they are not sustainable in the long run. Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, and try doing some simple swaps like olive oil for butter and fresh fruit for dessert.
6. Stay Active
When we sit at our desks all day, certain muscles in our back can become weak or strained, especially if we aren’t using proper ergonomics. We may begin to compensate for these sore muscles with poor posture, which causes even more pain. Staying active can be a great way to keep your back and core strong to help prevent low back pain.
Core strength exercises like partial crunches, wall sits, and bridges can be great ways to improve low back pain. Water aerobics can be a great gentle way to get some cardio in without straining your back too much. And walking can help to increase blood flow and strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
7. Take Some Aspirin
It may sound obvious, but one great way to deal with lower back pain in your day is to take some over-the-counter pain medications. If you have a muscle that’s sore or spasming, you don’t want to find yourself compensating with poor posture. Taking some pain medication can help to give you relief from back pain, especially if you’re dealing with a recent injury.
However, if you find yourself taking pain meds more days than not, you need to go see your doctor. Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin are not usually addictive, but they can be damaging if taken too often. And having to take pain medication on a regular basis is likely an indicator that there’s a bigger problem going on.
8. Get a Massage
Getting a massage can serve two purposes in helping to relieve low back pain. For one, it can be a great way to relax and relieve stress. As your stress levels lower, your muscles may relax, spasms may stop, and your body may stop producing so much cortisol, which causes inflammation.
And, of course, a massage has physical benefits for sore muscles, too. Massage therapists are trained in methods to relax strained or spasming muscles and ease pain. They can work out knots and tension you may not have even realized you were carrying in those muscles and provide you some relief.
9. Get a Better Bed
Maintaining a good posture at work is important, but have you ever thought about what sort of posture you have when you’re sleeping? Oftentimes, our spines can become contorted into unnatural positions as we sleep, and they remain in those positions all night long. This is especially true if you’re sleeping on a sub-par mattress.
You need to make sure your bed has enough give that it won’t put pressure on specific points on your body. But at the same time, your bed shouldn’t give so much that it provides no support. Memory foam mattresses are the best option to get the right combination of give and support, especially if you’re a side sleeper.
10. Get New Pillows
Your pillows – or lack thereof – may also be the culprit of your back pain. Pillows that are too old or stiff can shove your neck out of alignment, causing pain that radiates down your spine. You should consider getting memory foam pillows that will keep your head in proper alignment with your spine.
You may also want to look into getting a pillow to go in between your knees. This can help to pull your hips and spine back into alignment and take the pressure off your low back. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you might want to get a lumbar support pillow to slide under your hips, keeping your spine in line.
11. Avoid Braces
When your back hurts all the time, it can be tempting to get a brace to provide you with some extra support. You may even have a brace that you got from your doctor after a previous injury. But wearing these braces all the time can actually make the problem worse, not better.
Part of the purpose of a brace is to take a load off your back muscles while they heal from an injury. But if you wear this brace all the time, you may lose strength in those muscles. This will force you to compensate for that weakness, placing more strain on your other muscles and causing low back pain.
12. Quit Smoking
It may sound strange to advise quitting smoking as a solution for back pain. After all, smoking just affects your lungs, not your back, right? In fact, smoking affects every part of your body, and a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that smokers are more likely to have back pain than non-smokers.
Nicotine causes small blood vessels all over your body to become smaller. This limits the amount of blood – and by extension, oxygen and nutrients – that gets to tissues all over your body. This lack of oxygen and nutrients can cause your back to ache and make it harder for you to recover from small injuries.
13. Address Mental Health Issues
You might be surprised to learn that unaddressed mental health struggles can have a huge impact on back pain. When we get stressed, anxious, or depressed, we start tensing our muscles as an unconscious response. Our bodies also produce cortisol, a stress hormone that causes inflammation.
If you’ve noticed your low back hurting a lot more lately, take a moment, and evaluate what’s been going on in your life. Have you had a lot more stress in your life lately, or have you found yourself feeling more tired, unmotivated, or anxious lately? If so, take steps to address these problems and start moving back into living a happier, less stressful life.
14. Use Relaxation Techniques
One great way to start taking better care of your mental health is to make it a part of your daily routine to practice relaxation techniques. Something as simple as meditating or doing yoga for five minutes a day can help you release some of the tension in your body. Even becoming aware of this tension can help you begin to relax your aching muscles.
Begin by sitting somewhere comfortable, closing your eyes, and taking a few deep breaths. Clench all the muscles in your face into a frown and hold that for a count of five, then slowly release it, paying attention to the feeling of those muscles relaxing. Repeat this in your neck, your shoulders, your arms, your core, your back, your hips, your legs, and your feet.
You can also do a simple body scan; sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Beginning at the top of your head, focus on the sensations you feel there, especially any tension. Move your focus to your forehead, your cheeks, your jaw, your neck, and so on.
If you find any tension during this body scan, take a deep breath in. When you blow the breath out, imagine blowing the tension out with it. This will take some practice, but you can learn to release that tension at will.
15. Talk to Your Doctor
If your back pain becomes more serious or persists even after you try these tips, go see your doctor. Low back pain could be an indication that you have a more serious condition, including arthritis, osteoporosis, or sciatica. You don’t want to allow those conditions to progress undiagnosed for too long.
When you go to your doctor, be sure to bring a complete medical history with you, including any back injuries you’ve had. It’s also a good idea to bring a complete list of any medications, vitamins, or supplements you’re currently taking. And if you have any questions for your doctor, jot them down before you go to your appointment.
Stop Living with Lumbar Pain
Lumbar pain can disrupt nearly every area of your life, and your work life not least of all. If your back has been aching, try some of these tips. And if your pain gets worse or doesn’t improve in a week or two, make an appointment with your doctor.
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