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  • Dr Andrew Roberts

5 Tips to Help Your Low Back Pain

Did you know that 1 in 6 Australians are suffering with some kind of back pain and that 80% of the population will at some point experience back pain in their lives.


Lower back pain specifically is the number 1 cause of loss of work productivity and loss of income, the 2nd most common reason for visits to a GP and in the top 5 reasons for visits to the emergency room and comes at a cost of almost $5 Billion annually to the Australian healthcare system.


Often called “non-specific low back” pain because of a lack of identifiable pathoanatomical causes, makes treating low back pain tricky. Without an identifiable source of the pain, most interventions are focussed instead on reducing the pain rather than treating the cause of it. The good news is that most lower back pain is self limiting, which means that up to 75% of cases will go away on their own in time and won't cause any significant long-term disability. Causes of non-specific low back pain can be linked to many lifestyle factors including; traumas (Big and small), repetitive movement, poor posture, stress and mood, sitting for long periods, lack of physical activity, obesity, and general poor health. The lower back is made up of many joints including, five movable lumbar vertebra, sitting on top of the pelvis which is made up of the sacrum, and two Ilium and the coccyx at the very bottom. The pain could potentially be coming from any of these joints, the discs, or the surrounding soft tissues like muscles, ligaments and tendons. Sometimes it can even affect the nerves causing referred pain in other areas like down the legs. However, as a human, you are not just these joints in the lower back, and as such it’s important to also look at other potential causative factors like lifestyle, posture, core muscles, and overall movement of your body and spine.





However, if you are experiencing lower back pain, then chances are you’d like to get rid of it or manage it, so here are 5 tips to help you reduce or prevent low back pain.


Tip 1: Keep active


Gone are the days of best rest if you have a bad back, the research shows that’s probably the worst thing you can do. There are so many different ways to keep active, and the key is to find something that you enjoy, isn’t causing you pain, and that you can maintain regularly. For some it’s the gym 5 times a week, for other’s it’s a nice walk with the dog every day. But movement helps to improve the blood flow and nutrients to the joints and soft tissues, releases endorphins which are pain-relieving, increases strength, stability and functionality. Now the caveat to this is that if anything you’re doing is causing pain, then that might not be the best thing for you right now. So either change it up, or change the intensity. Even when the pain is at its worst, it’s important to stay active, but you may need to rest a little in what we call Active rest. In active rest you can do things like gentle walks and gentle stretches, but listen to your body, you can push to the edge of the pain, but not through the pain.


Tip 2: Posture


When your parents told you to sit up at the dinner table, it was actually for a good reason. With ideal posture we should see a line right down from the ears, to the shoulders, to the hips, knees and ankles, and between that your spine (under the surface) we should have a series of strategic curves when seen from the side. But when we change that normal alignment it then starts to change the load on other joints and tissues which could lead to pain. For some of us, going from a bad posture to a perfect one may actually be difficult and or difficult to maintain. So the easiest thing you can do is to pretend that there is a little string pulling your head up to the ceiling. Ensure your chin is staying level with the horizon. When you do it this way, and come straight up from the head you are less likely to over-exaggerate some of your curves, and you can think of it not as having perfect posture, but more that you’re just activating the right muscles. The key to this though is repetition, whenever you find yourself slumping again, just do this same activity and try to maintain it.


Tip 3: Manage the pain


One way you can do this is with Hot & Cold therapies. The research and the jury are still out on this one as to which is best and when. However, the general rule of thumb when it comes to hot and cold is - if it’s a brand new pain, especially related to an injury, or if you put your hands over the painful area and it feels hot to touch, then we may be dealing with inflammation and ice will be beneficial in this situation. Try to keep the ice pack as specific as possible rather than a broad application, never apply it directly to the skin, don’t put it on for more than 15 minutes and you shouldn’t have to use it for more than a few days to a couple of weeks to get through acute inflammation. If the pain is more chronic or ongoing then we may be also dealing with some stiff muscles, this is where a heat pack can help. For heat packs you want to go broad and cover as much of the area as you can with medium but consistent heat and you can do this multiple times throughout the day. Another way to manage the pain is through over the counter pain medication, but if you’d like a more natural approach, a really powerful natural anti-inflammatory is Turmeric. You can take this a few different ways, one is to get the fresh herb and blend into a smoothie with some black pepper and a fat like coconut oil. You can also get the ground herb and make a drink from it called golden mylk again adding black pepper and some kind of fat to make it more bioavailable. However if you’re lazy like me, capsule options are very readily available these days from most health food shops and pharmacies. Turmeric will not work as quickly as over the counter pain medications, but can be taken multiple times throughout the day and are generally far more gentle on the body.


Tip 4: Relaxation


The research shows that the state of your mind can affect your chances of getting lower back pain. And then vice versa the pain and lack of mobility or changes in your lifestyle can also lead to psychological distress that can worsen the pain. Psychological therapies with professional guidance can help, as well as getting into a regular meditation routine to help better manage your stress and mindset. Sleep is also an important factor for ensuring the body is getting enough time to rest and heal, however that can also be difficult for some people suffering with lower back pain. We recommend a good quality mattress that supports the parts of your body that are naturally heavier to help support those normal curves and alignment of your spine while sleeping. If you’re a side sleeper, then something between your knees will help to take the rotation out of your pelvis.


Tip 5: See your Chiropractor

There is a very large database of research into the effects of Chiropractic for low back pain as well as other areas of back pain and function. Some of these studies compare against other treatment options like exercise, massage, physio, & medication. Some compare Chiropractic to a control group that receives no treatment at all. And some review all the available literature and put it into one study to save you from needing to read everything. Like this 2011 Cochrane review here that included 12 studies with a total of almost 3000 participants and demonstrates that Chiropractic at least in the short and medium term is superior to other modalities it was tested against. But the real problem with Chiropractic research is, that as we discussed earlier, there are many joints, muscles, discs, and ligaments in the lower back, so no 2 people are going to have the exact same cause of their lower back pain, or need the exact same treatment. A well trained Chiropractor will assess exactly where your pain is coming from, and work with you to improve the function of that area through a range of techniques specifically for you and work with you to help maintain and stabilise that area with proper exercises and stretches. So if you’ve already tried some of the tips I’ve already mentioned before and are still not getting results, then it may be a good time to book in and see your Chiropractor today.


If you found this information helpful, or you know someone who is suffering needlessly with low back pain, please like and share this with them so that you can help them to reduce their pain and the effects that may be having on their lives. Or book in and see us here in West End / South Brisbane and see if we can help you with your low back pain.


References:


Maher C, Underwood M, Buchbinder R. Non-specific low back pain. Lancet. 2017 Feb 18;389(10070):736-747. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30970-9. Epub 2016 Oct 11. PMID: 27745712.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Back problems. Cat. no. PHE 231. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 22 April 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems


Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria and Deloittes Access Economics. A problem worth solving: The rising cost of musculoskeletal conditions in Australia

. In Elsternwick: Arthritis and Osteoporosis. Victoria; 2013.


. Spine 2012;37:1156–63.


Schofield DJ, Shrestha RN, Cunich M, Tanton R, Kelly S, Passey ME, et al. Lost productive life years caused by chronic conditions in Australians aged 45–64 years, 2010–2030

. Med J Aust. 2015 Sep 21;203(6):260.e261–6




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Cade
Cade
Jul 26, 2023

This comprehensive article provides practical and effective tips for managing and preventing low back pain, with valuable insights into the benefits of chiropractic care as a solution for personalized treatment and relief.

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