7 ways to reduce back pain
Are you looking for a solution to reduce your back pain? We just might have a solution for you…
You’re most likely to experience back pain at least one time in your life, 80% of Canadians will.
Back pain can be scary if you’re not sure what to do about it.
We’ve created a list of our top tips to help you get rid back pain quickly.
While there is no one type of back pain, there is one thing that they all have in common, it’s most likely not serious.
Should you use ice or heat?
Do you usually reach for Ice and rest when you’re in pain? You may want to read further before you do that!
When you first hurt your back, you might go to the old fashioned “RICE method” to start feeling better. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It works, for some injuries but not all of them.
Unfortunately, the RICE method, specifically the first two letters, may be one of the worst things you can do when you injure your low back.
When we restrict mobility and blood flow to the injured area – the R and I – will simply make you more stiff, sore, and slower to recover.
Please do not grab an ice pack and lay on the couch for the week when you first injure your back or when your back is achy after a workout… please.
Now you should be careful of simply grabbing a weight or “back belt” and push through the pain, that’s not what we’re saying.
We’ve talked about why more people should be using the alternative to RICE. It’s called METH, it stands for movement, elevation, traction, and heat. Catchy – we know!
There are certain times heat wouldn’t be a friend such as acute back pain with numbness and tingling.
There’s also caution with acute back pain when there is a pop and intense pain.
We prefer using a heated blanket or heat pad, placing it on the ground, then laying on it with your elevated – such as the back of your knees on the couch.
You can do this most mornings or before activity. You can even do it before bed too. Using gentle pain-free motion is beneficial too. You can do circular motions, starting small and progressing to larger ones – remember, no pain.
The term should be “active rest” and not just rest in the RICE method.
Most people just stop doing everything when they’re injured, and that’s not great for healing (usually). It’s okay to walk, aqua running, elliptical training, or lifting weights with a slight discomfort (caution with acute back pain).
Movement and blood flow can help with back to heal quicker while maintaining your fitness.
How to reduce back pain?
How often do you reach for ibuprofen to get rid of the back pain? You may want to think twice before doing that
I’m very hesitant to take NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) myself – like ibuprofen.
What you may not be aware of NSAIDs is the can impair cartilage repair and cause cartilage loss. Studies have also shown effects NSAIDs use with kidney, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal problems including heart attacks, kidney damage, and GI bleeds accounting for around 16,500 deaths each year.
More people die each year from NSAIDs-related complications than from AIDS and cervical cancer in the United States.
We’re not telling you or giving you the advice to take or not take something, you’ll always want to contact your doctor and ask them before taking or stopping medications.
There is an alternative supplement though, “Phenocane”.
Phenocane has Nattokinase, an excellent natural therapeutic against the formation of pulmonary embolisms. It also Phenylalanine, an amino acid that helps amplify the effect of the body’s natural pain killers (endorphins). If you’re on blood thinners though, you’ll want to talk to your doctor since they interact with each other.
There’s also a teaspoon of ginger daily in water that has similar effects to how NSAID’s work but has beneficial effects on the body – though, it may take 3-4 days to kick in.
Click photo for a video of the benefits of ginger
Magnesium for back pain
Magnesium is involved in over 325+ different reactions inside the human body that are important for recovery, sleep, and body aches
There are two ways to use magnesium – topically and through supplements
I like transdermal Magnesium or topical magnesium.
You may know the benefits of magnesium if you’ve read the book “magnesium miracle” by Dr. Carolyn Dean
If you want to learn more about the benefits of magnesium, watch this short video. It talks about muscle aches, sleeps problems, and migraines to name a few.
Which may be able to help you calm down the muscles to get rid of your back pain
It seems to work great for most people.
If you have trouble falling asleep or “tight shoulders”, you can rub it on your shoulders or right before bed to help fall asleep.
We are often deficient in this mineral, even the health-conscious because it’s used for over 325+ different reactions in the body. The best bang for your buck is magnesium-rich foods than a topical oil, but the magnesium oil can be used like “Rub A5-35”.
Athletes, post-menopausal women, and underlying medical conditions are known to have a magnesium deficiency – it’s common for most people and severely under-diagnosed.
You can also you an “Epsom salt” bath.
I like this to reduce the spasms and tightness, and helping your back relax the death grip it can have on your spine.
Why would this work?
Your muscles operate on a fine electrochemical balance and the electrolytes in Epsom salts can help displaces some of the charges across the muscular membrane – particularly from calcium and thus the spasm to relax.
A float-tank may be a great option as well. If you have chronic back pain or periodic episodes of back pain, you may want to consider float tanks once a month.
I like Epsom salt baths as a prevention or treatment strategy that you do after a heavy workout or if you become injured.
Here are a few tips for an Epsom salt bath at home
- Don’t have the water too hot, it can reduce the effectiveness of the salts (keep it under 103 degrees)
- 1/2 – 1 cup of salts is great for the entire bath.
- I like the Ancient minerals company at that can be found at whole foods or local stores like Health essentials
- Add a few things 1) Essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, or rosemary are good for muscle aches. 2) A tablespoon of coconut oil (Be careful because you’ll be all sexy, oily, and slippery – we don’t want you falling in the tub)
Click the photo to learn about the benefits of magnesium!
Get a massage
Massage can be a great way to reduce your back pain!
When it comes to back pain and injury prevention, massage is a tricky topic.
When you approach an RMT complaining of a tight back or sore spot in the upper hips, they will lay you down on a nice, comfortable massage table, and then they will firmly work the length of your spine in a way that seems to completely draw the pain out and completely relax your body.
You walk out feeling pretty good, though later that night or perhaps the next – you’re in more pain!
How could this happen?
After that massage, your body “lets down” it’s the guard. Specifically, the muscles in your low back become relaxed, de-stressed, and in the same way that they can release their painful grip on your spine when you use something like a magnesium treatment, they release their grip on your spine when they are induced to a deep state of relaxation by the massage.
The problem with massage therapy is that it be too potent sometimes, so much so that your back is relaxed during the phase of injury.
This is why if you come to our clinic with acute back pain, we tell you we won’t be completely getting rid of all your back pain down to start. It’s a protective mechanism that we need to respect
You have to utilize massage therapy wisely here.
Our recommendations are
- A few short massage therapy sessions closer together if it’s acute back pain. For example, a 60-minute assessment to create a plan, and 2-4x 45 minute massage every 4-5 days.
- A massage once a month for prevention and relaxation if you have chronic or episodic back pain. 60 minutes is typically best but 45 minutes can produce results too, we work with your situation
- If you’re prone to “throwing your back out”, don’t use massage therapy 24-48 hours before a hard workout, a heavy back day, or a race
Stretch Or Foam Roll
You can stretch certain muscles but foam rolling may provide faster benefits
You’ve heard stretching before but have you tried foam rolling?
Foam rolling can be a good way to get rid of your back pain acutely but it’s not a long-term plan.
If muscles don’t move freely as they should, things start to compensate and this is where the trouble starts. The problem is that you may not have any pain where the muscle needs to move.
The muscles that seem to be problematic with back pain are the hip flexors (TFL and Psoas), the inner groin, the glutei/piriformis, and the QL’s.
To help reduce back pain, these are the most common exercises that our Athletic therapist prescribes:
- Foam rolling or tennis ball the TFL
- Tennis ball on QL or just off the spine
- Foam rolling the groin
- Foam rolling the butt
This will most likely be tender for the majority of people so it’s important to ease into this and it’s best through your breath.
The intensity is important as well, we don’t suggest past a 4 on the 10-point pain scale.
The easiest is being a softball on a soft surface (tennis ball on a bed for example) to a hardball on a hard surface (lacrosse ball on a cement floor.)
Choose something that works for you, starting with a tennis ball may be too much, so try a foam roller.
Strengthen your butt
On the contrary, you don’t want a tight ass
Do you know what a major player in back pain is? Inefficient butt muscles or weak butt.
You see, your butt muscles are responsible for two primary actions: hip extension (i.e. when you push off the ground or when you kick out behind your body) and external hip rotation (i.e. when you move side to side, or you land in a single stance phase while you’re running).
Your butt is crucial in helping you to get rid of your back pain, it needs to be strong and your hips mobile.
When your hips don’t move properly, and they’re not stabilized properly by the butt muscles, other muscles around need to take up the extra slack. This causes them to be overworked.
This is typically your back or the “SI” joint that seems to take up this slack.
Strengthening your butt correctly seems to help this. We’ll give you a few exercises below to help but if you think this maybe you, we suggest getting a plan from our Athletic Therapist made specifically for you
Our top butt exercises (You can look at Brett Contreras’ work on youtube for more videos)
You can read more on a few exercises HERE
Improve your core strength
Building a strong core is more than just sit-ups, it’s critical for getting rid of back pain
We see this too often when we go to the gym…trainers, fitness coaches, or people doing some of the worst exercises for your back
…crunches with twists…
…incline sit-ups while twisting with a medicine ball…
…sit-ups with rotation…
…ab machines that involve rotation…
…and pretty much any exercise that combines bending or extending the low back with twisting the low back.
There’s a reason that the US military stopped doing crunches
There are better exercises for your back, the core is designed to be “anti-movement”.
Building a strong core based around “anti-movement” exercises is a great step in getting rid of your back pain.
Does that mean if you do sit-ups that you’ll completely ruin your back – no.
If you’re healthy and have a strong back that can move in the correct spots with a properly rotating SI joint, you can probably hand this – but that’s a very low population.
Most people should avoid those exercises like the plague because the combination of flexion and rotation while in a seated position is one of the riskiest motions that your lower back can be exposed to.
The discs and ligaments in your spine are just great at cushioning and stabilizing your back in a single plane of motion (bending forward and backwards), but unless you’re a well-trained athlete or something who’s trained specifically in those positions, it’s not advised.
Once you begin combining these complex movements with a position that puts a great deal of stress on your back (in this case, sitting), you’re setting yourself up to get injured.