First Steps with Lower Back Pain

If you’re having lower back pain, building an active care program for yourself can be extremely effective at restoring functionality — and especially important in times like this where finding access to in-person care is difficult. But where to begin?

Over the next few days, I’ll provide a general template you can use day-to-day for getting the low back functional, and building resilience with simple activities.

But you should always start with what to avoid (how to keep this going backwards so you can move forwards).

Avoid Further Irritation

Step 1a) is to AVOID FURTHER IRRITATION. Irritated structures creating pain become more and more sensitive to future pain if that irritation continues! So the old adage applies in the early stages: if it hurts, don’t do that.

Lower Back Pain Irritation Avoidance

Keep an eye on what activities are painful though because they can offer you clues about what else might hurt. In general, bending, lifting, and twisting performed poorly are the most likely to get you in trouble — especially if you start to combine these actions.

And also, DO NOT rely on bedrest to get you better! As much as you are able to move without pain, try and keep those activities up. Staying active is a key feature in returning quickly to normal activity levels.

Find Positions of Relief

Step 1b) is to FIND POSITIONS OF RELIEF for when you do need a break from activity. Getting comfortable in any position for a long time can be difficult with lower back pain, so you will probably need to have a few different ways to provide some relief in the early stages of recovery. But as mentioned in 1a), avoiding repeated irritation is important, each just temporarily.

1b) First Steps Positions of Relief

Some of the most frequently used positions of relief are simply lying flat on the back with the feet flat to the floor, lying on your side with the knees tucked towards the chest, or sitting in a firm chair with a pillow used as support. But for something that combines activity and relief, consider one of these: Supine (face up) knees-to-chest, Prone (face down) child’s pose, or Prone on elbows extension.

The first two are most likely to achieve relief if you’re having pain from the muscles or joints in the back. These positions flatten the curve of the low back, helping relieve pressure on overworked muscles and joints. If this doesn’t achieve relief however, especially if you’re also experiencing pain in the leg or foot, the Prone on elbows extension position might help. Although it actually increases pressure on muscles and joints, it often reduces pressure on discs and nerves.

Please remember that movements are dynamic, and what works for many will not work for all — so if you assume any of these positions and experience MORE discomfort, remember the principle of 1a) and move on to something else.

In the next post, we’ll move on to building a daily routine that gets you ready for daily demands.

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