Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Low Back Pain: What You Can Do

As an experienced massage therapist, personal trainer, and health coach, I always tell my clients, “Listen to your body.”

If a certain movement or exercise causes pain, by ALL means - stop and pay attention! It amazes me how few of us take the time to do this simple step.

Instead, we choose to suck it up and work through the pain. This is fine when the pain is mild and intermittent, but paying attention and listening to what your body is telling you can make the difference between something you can work through and something that becomes chronic, excruciating and debilitating.

Once that level is reached; it’s time to discuss your symptoms with your doctor or other health care professional.

Of course, the best treatment against lower back pain is always going to be proactive and preventative. Here are a few reminders about what you can do to protect your back:

Rest, but not too much. The temptation may be to stay in bed, but recent research suggests that excessive bed rest (more than a day or two after an acute injury), could actually do more harm than good. If you stay in bed longer than a couple of days, your muscles start to lose strength and their ability to support your back. Stay as active as you can (while continuing to listen to your body).

Sit and stand safely. Whether you’re at work or home, take note of the positions you're in most of day! Are you doing everything you can to protect your low back with good posture? You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: Good posture is critical. Try to catch yourself when you're slouching.

When you’re in pain, here are a few other things to remember:

  • If your back pain is acute, sit and drive as little as possible and avoid sitting on soft, low couches.
  • Make sure your desk and access to work supplies are set at a comfortable height for you.
  • If you aren't lucky enough to have an office chair with good lumbar support, try using a pillow or rolled-up towel to support your lower back. Position your chair at the right height for your task, and rest your feet on a low stool.
  • When getting up from a sitting position, scoot to the edge of your seat, get your feet directly underneath you, and stand. Avoid bending at the waist.
  • When you DO drive, make sure you've got good lumbar support. Take your pillow or rolled up towel with you and be sure to position your seat so that you maintain a curve in your low back and that your hips are lower than your knees.
  • Getting out of a car can pose a real challenge. Whatever you do, do NOT twist your torso to get out. Instead, support your back and swing both legs out. And if you are on a long road trip, make sure you take regular breaks to walk around even if it’s only for a few minutes.


Lift and move safely.
Change positions often. If you have a desk job, for example, be sure to get up, move around, and stretch every hour. Gently arch your back. Need a reminder to move? Set an alarm on your phone or computer. When doing activities like cleaning, weeding, or vacuuming, remember to keep the curve in your lower back as much as you can.

Eight out of 10 Americans will experience debilitating back pain, according to Time.com, but a massage can help. According to a 2011 study, massage helped people in pain feel and function better compared to people who didn't receive any massage treatment.

It is believed that the benefits of massage are about as strong as those reported for other effective treatments such as; medications, acupuncture, exercise and yoga. Massage has also been linked to decreased stiffness and pain, as well as better range of motion in people with osteoarthritis.

So, don’t forget to include regular massage session in your personal tool chest for fighting lower back pain. You’ll be glad you did!

Listen to your body,

John Aaron Villarreal

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