Back pain, from minimal to severe, can increasingly affect a person’s quality of life. This is due to the fact that pain in the back can negatively impact day-to-day functions. According to Georgetown University, approximately 65 million Americans experience back pain episodes. That means around 20% of Americans will live with back pain at one point in their life.
Back pain can cause significant discomfort that no person should have to endure. Luckily, there are exercises and remedies a person can do in addition to chiropractor treatments to experience back pain relief.
Why Do People Have Back Pain?
There are numerous conditions that can affect the back and cause pain. Most cases of back pain come from strains or sprains from overuse, unaccustomed activity, excessive lifting, or an accident. Occasionally, back pain can resolve on its own if the irritation or injury was minor. Other reasons people experience back pain—which are considered more serious conditions—are aging, spine alignment, and herniated disks.
One of the most common culprits that lead to back pain is aging. Getting older is a natural stage in the human experience, but unfortunately our bodies can begin to deteriorate as we age.
Back pain is often found in the low back as the aging process affects the bones and joints in the lower back. This area of the back is also easily strained through strenuous movements, such as lifting a heavy box.
Aging also highly impacts the back as disks (the structures that serve as cushions between the vertebrae) tend to wear down or become fragmented over time. Once disks are compromised from wearing or fragmentation, pain can occur.
The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are bones stacked on top of each other along the middle of the back. Our backs are able to move through the spine because between each vertebra are small joints. Within those joints are also disks that help to prevent vertebrae rubbing against each other and grinding down.
When aging occurs, spinal disks can wear away and even shrink. This results in the grinding vertebrae, which causes pain and stiffness. As this happens, the space around the spinal cord narrows as we age. With less space, more stress is added to the back and pain levels increase over time. This is also known as spinal stenosis, which causes pain by putting pressure on the cord and spinal nerves.
Another back condition caused by aging is a decrease in bone mass, referred to as osteoporosis. This can make the vertebrae vulnerable to fracturing, which if severe enough could lead to surgery. The facet joints, where each vertebra meets, can also degenerate with age; this is known as spinal arthritis.
Another condition that causes back pain is spine alignment, or rather misalignment. Another term for spinal misalignment is subluxation, which is a condition treated by chiropractors in Phoenix. There are multiple instances that cause spinal subluxation to occur. A few of them are improper lifting, poor posture, and stress.
This particular type of back pain does not usually cause radiating pain to move down into the arms or legs, unlike other types of back pain. However, spinal subluxation pain can be severely painful and even persistent.
When the spine is not properly aligned, stress is added to the back as the spine is worn down. This stress can be extremely painful, especially if it is not corrected. If left untreated, spinal misalignment can accelerate the wear and tear of the spine and the back can degenerate faster. Essentially, our spines are like a flat tire. If ignored, our spines will only worsen and lead to further issues down the road.
Spinal misalignments not only cause back pain but also lead to further health issues. Subluxations in the spine can result in herniated disks and further degeneration of the vertebrae.
A herniated disk is another cause of low back pain, but this condition occurs less often. Pain from a herniated disk usually occurs when a disk is pushed outside the space between the bones and begins to compress a nerve to the point where it branches off of the spinal cord.
Herniated disks affect the sciatic nerve—the largest nerve in the human body that roots from the low back. When this nerve is distressed, pain can radiate in the glutes and even down the legs. This type of pain is called sciatica. Whether back pain is acute or chronic, those with sciatica can experience shooting pains and even numbness throughout the lower back and legs.
Ways For Back Pain Relief At Home
Determining the root cause of your back pain can be complicated and may take time before long-term relief can occur. However, there are exercises and remedies you can do within the comforts of your own home to help reduce symptoms or prevent the back from moving to a worse state.
Exercises For Back Pain Relief
The purpose of exercising at home is to relieve pressure on the back, reduce any straining, protect the spine, and strengthen the muscles. Back exercises should not be strenuous. Instead, exercising should stay rather simple as your body recovers from what is inducing the pain. Even making slight alterations to your daily routine can help you redeem the benefits of maintaining a healthy and pain-free life.
- Work Your Core
Participating in regular, physical exercise has numerous health benefits; one of which is back pain relief. When exercising, it’s important to focus on your core so you can increase your strength and stability. Your core refers to the abdominal muscles that are in front of and wrap around your stomach. It is essentially the center of your body, which means your core strength affects your ability to balance.
Having a regular strength-training routine that focuses on your core helps to reduce the risk of back-related injuries such as strains or muscle spasms. Included in this routine should be back and abdominal strengthening exercises like crunches and planks. This type of core workout is recommended at least two times per week to develop a strong, more flexible back.
It’s actually surprisingly easy to irritate the back. Staying in one position for an extended period of time—whether it be standing, sitting, or lying—can be harmful to your back. For this reason, taking the time to stretch throughout the day can result in a healthier back.
Our daily activities, like working at a desk or watching television on a couch, could leave a strain on the back. This is especially if your movements are limited throughout the day. To relieve this straining, remembering to move around, get up, and do simple stretches can go a long way.
By stretching, you are helping your body increase circulation to your back. These stretches should not be intense as their purpose is to help relieve the stress placed on your back due to inactivity. It can be as simple as reaching your arms to the ceiling for a few seconds or bending over to try to touch your toes.
- Keep Active
Some people assume that the best remedy for back pain is bed rest, however, that can actually result in further pain. As stated before, inactivity or limited movements can lead to the back becoming stiff, stressed, and strained. This is why doctors commonly advise people to keep up with their usual activities to help with their back.
Depending on the condition of the back, some modifications may be necessary if back pain is more severe. But even in these circumstances, extended periods of bed rest should be avoided. For most cases, the first treatment protocol for acute and chronic back pain is a recommendation of remaining active.
Taking a simple five-minute walk down the block every hour or so can help immensely when it comes to back pain. Even if it’s just walking to the kitchen and back, that simple exercise helps your body get moving and release any tension built up from inactivity.
If back pain persists or simple daily activities (such as walking) result in further pain, a medical professional should be consulted. Some modifications to daily movements or specific stretches and exercises may be needed.
- Exercise Therapy
Exercise therapies like tai chi or yoga could help to effectively stretch your back and improve your health. For people doing these therapies for the first time, it is best to start slow and gradually introduce new stretches into your routine. For doing these therapies, early morning is the most ideal time to loosen your spine and reduce the back stiffness from sleep.
Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that uses slow and graceful movements while meditation and deep breathing are incorporated. Although research on the use of tai chi for treating back pain is somewhat limited, practicing tai chi has been shown to help with alleviating back pain to some degree.
Yoga is a great way to stretch the back, muscles, and joints. Although yoga can get quite advanced, there are plenty of stretches and poses for beginners. Yoga helps the body enhance blood circulation and increase the flexibility of the spine. It is recommended to move slowly when first doing yoga to gauge current pain levels. If there are no high intensities of uncomfortableness, advancements can be made while you participate in yoga.
Back Pain Home Remedies
In addition to exercises, there are a few home remedies to relieve back pain. These remedies are intended to help reduce pressure and strain on the back. However, if back pain is severe these remedies should not act as a replacement for a doctor.
- Sleep With A Pillow Under Your Knees
If you find yourself in more pain in the morning, it is most likely due to your sleeping position causing irritation to your back. To release pressure on your back during sleep, a simple solution is to place a pillow underneath your knees.
This elevates your legs slightly, which in turn relieves any weight your body could be placing on your back while lying down. Sleeping with a pillow underneath your knees can help to reduce any pressure or irritation by half.
- Increase Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
Partaking of certain minerals and vitamins can help increase bone strength, which can result in preventing issues with the spine. Specifically eating foods and drinks with calcium and vitamin D can help keep your spine healthy and strong.
Calcium can be found in:
- Leafy Greens
Vitamin D is in:
- Fatty Fish
- Egg Yolks
- Beef Live
- Choice of Shoes
Your choice in shoewear could have more implications than most people think of. Wearing uncomfortable shoes can result in strain on the back as walking patterns become limited.
For example, if a particular shoe causes a bruise on your heel you may walk unevenly to avoid putting pressure on that sensitive area. By not being able to walk with weight evenly distributed on the feet, the body could place more pressure into the back to accommodate for it.
To reduce strain on your back, wearing comfortable and low-heeled shoes is recommended. Whether you are standing or walking, your footwear should make your back relieve pain rather than increase pain. Shoes with less than a one-inch heel are best for preventing back pain.
- Correct Your Posture
Good posture isn’t just a way to look more proper. It protects the intricate pieces of your spine to keep them healthy and functioning properly. Bad posture puts strain and stress on your back and can change the architecture of your spine. It’s best to avoid rounding your shoulders, slouching, or bending sideways when standing.
The same can be said for sitting at a desk or table. It’s critical to keep good posture and support your back when sitting down, especially if you do it for several hours per day. Choose a quality chair that provides firm support for your lower back, and make sure your knees are a little higher than your hips when you sit.
- Avoid Cigarettes
We all know smoking is a serious health risk, but smokers are more likely to experience back pain than nonsmokers. One reason for this is that nicotine restricts blood flow to the disks in the spine.
Smoking can cause spinal disks to dry out, crack, or rupture. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which causes a reduction in nourishment to the muscles and tendons in the back. In short, smokers are more susceptible to back pain due to an unhealthy and weak back being more vulnerable to accidental strains and pulls.
- Lighten Your Load
Improper or heavy lifting is a common cause of back pain, but it doesn’t only happen to people who lift heavy boxes on the job. Carrying a bulky laptop bag, suitcase, camera, or a load of groceries can also cause a strain on your back.
Whenever possible, take some weight off your shoulders by carrying less, distributing the weight evenly on both sides of your body, or shifting the weight from shoulder to shoulder. Consider using a rolling cart or bag with wheels for heavier loads like bags of groceries or boxes of files.
- Anti-Inflammatory Drink Every Day
When you consume anti-inflammatory foods regularly, several antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer agents can build up in your blood. Over a period of time, these potent agents can play a significant role in reducing and/or eliminating inflammatory reactions in the body. Consuming these healthy drinks on a regular basis may help reduce your back pain.
- Hot & Cold
When choosing between heat and cold, you may be a better judge than your doctor. Nerve fibers that carry pain sensations also sense a change in temperature. As a result, stimulating the nerves with either heat or cold can diminish your discomfort. At first, you can choose which one to try to see which one is best suited for your pain. Using both temperatures (not simultaneously) may help ease your pain as switching between the two could help optimize healing.
On the other hand, some experts advocate heat or cold based on the potential effects on blood flow. Applying ice or a reusable gel pack constricts blood vessels and reduces swelling around the injury. This is particularly useful for conditions, like a sprained ankle, that causes significant swelling.
Heat has the opposite effect, increasing blood flow to the area. This relaxes muscle fibers, which can help when you experience spasms or stiffness. For this reason, heat is usually recommended for muscular injuries.
When Do You Need A Chiropractor?
If pain levels do not improve after three to four days, a chiropractic visit is highly recommended. No person deserves to live in pain and have their functionality suffer because of it. Back pain home remedies are great to help ease your pain until your back is able to return to normal, however, some cases are too severe for exercises and remedies to make a large impact.
This is when a chiropractor becomes a great resource. Chiropractic Care helps to manage and relieve swelling and pain in the back. Routine chiropractic care provides patients with low back pain treatment that’s a safe, non-invasive, non-addictive alternative to prescription or over-the-counter pain medications, which are commonly prescribed to patients to help them manage their pain and swelling.
Chiropractors deliver a gentle therapy known as a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractic adjustments reduce joint restrictions or misalignments in the spine and other joints in the body in an effort to reduce inflammation and improve the function of both the affected joint and nervous system. By increasing joint mobility and improving your nervous system function and spinal health, your body has the ability to better manage symptoms caused by low back pain.
At Arizona Pain Relief, our chiropractors create customized treatment plans to help with your needs and relieve your back pain. In addition, our chiropractors work alongside our doctors and nurse practitioners to ensure you and your back recover.
With an adjustment and consultation, you may find underlying reasons that answer why back pain has become an issue. Your chiropractor will aid you in the search for back pain relief and help create a treatment plan to treat, or even just correct your back pain.