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Tips to Manage Low Back Pain at Home

Perhaps you bent the wrong way while lifting something heavy. Or you’re dealing with a degenerative condition like arthritis. Whatever the cause, once you have low back pain, it can be hard to shake. About one in four say they’ve had a recent bout of low back pain. And almost everyone can expect to experience back pain at some point in their lives.

Sometimes it’s clearly serious: You were injured, or you feel numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs. Call the doctor, of course. But for routine and mild low back pain, here are a few simple tips to try at home.

Spinal Stenosis

Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation. “Even though the warmth feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes,” she says. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice — take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest. If pain persists, talk with a doctor.

Keep moving. “Our spines are like the rest of our body — they’re meant to move. Keep doing your daily activities. Make the beds, go to work, walk the dog. Once you’re feeling better, regular aerobic exercises like swimming, bicycling, and walking can keep you — and your back — more mobile. Just don’t overdo it. There’s no need to run a marathon when your back is sore.

Stay strong. Once your low back pain has receded, you can help avert future episodes of back pain by working the muscles that support your lower back, including the back extensor muscles. “They help you maintain the proper posture and alignment of your spine. Having strong hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles also gives you more back support. Avoid abdominal crunches, because they can actually put more strain on your back.

Stretch. Don’t sit slumped in your desk chair all day. Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way. Because most of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our jobs, it’s important to stand up and stretch backward throughout the day. Don’t forget to also stretch your legs. Some people find relief from their back pain by doing a regular stretching routine, like yoga.

Think ergonomically. Design your workspace so you don’t have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach way out for your mouse. Use a desk chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Watch your posture. Slumping makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Be especially careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Wear low heels. Exchange your four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine. According to research, nearly 60% of women who consistently wear high-heeled shoes complain of low back pain.

Kick the habit. Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems. Osteoporosis can lead to compression fractures of the spine. One study found that smokers are about a third more likely to have low back pain compared with nonsmokers.

Watch your weight. Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.

Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce back pain. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your low back pain doesn’t go away after a few days, and it hurts even when you’re at rest or lying down.
  • You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking
  • You lose control over your bowels or bladder

These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.

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Backache in your Life

If you are like most people, you will have at least one backache in your life. While such pain or discomfort can happen anywhere in your back, the most common area affected is your low back. This is because the low back supports most of your body’s weight.

Many back-related injuries happen at work. But you can change that. There are many things you can do to lower your chances of getting back pain.

Most back problems will get better on their own. The key is to know when you need to seek medical help and when self-care measures alone will allow you to get better.

Low back pain may be acute (short-term), lasting less than one month, or chronic (long-term, continuous, ongoing), lasting longer than three months. While getting acute back pain more than once is common, continuous long-term pain is not.

Causes of Back Pain:

You’ll usually first feel back pain just after you lift a heavy object, move suddenly, sit in one position for a long time, or have an injury or accident. But prior to that moment in time, the structures in your back may be losing strength or integrity.

The specific structure in your back responsible for your pain is hardly ever identified. Whether identified or not, there are several possible sources of low back pain:

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Degeneration of the disks
  • Kidney problems, such as infections or stones
  • Muscle spasm (very tense muscles that remain contracted)
  • Other medical conditions like fibromyalgia
  • Poor alignment of the vertebrae
  • Ruptured or herniated disk
  • Small fractures to the spine from osteoporosis
  • Spinal stenosis(narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Spine curvatures (like scoliosis or kyphosis) which may be inherited and seen in children or teens
  • Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back

Low back pain from any cause usually involves spasms of the large, supportive muscles alongside the spine. The muscle spasm and stiffness accompanying back pain can feel particularly uncomfortable.

You are at particular risk for low back pain if you:

  • Are over age 30
  • Are pregnant
  • Feel stressed or depressed
  • Have a low pain threshold
  • Have arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Have bad posture
  • Smoke, don’t exercise, or are overweight
  • Work in construction or another job requiring heavy lifting, lots of bending and twisting, or whole body vibration (like truck driving or using a sandblaster)

Prevention of Lower Back Pain

Exercise is important for preventing future back pain. Through exercise you can:

  • Improve your posture
  • Strengthen your back and improve flexibility
  • Lose weight
  • Avoid falls

A complete exercise program should include aerobic activity (like walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bicycle) as well as stretching and strength training.

To prevent back pain, it is also very important to learn to lift and bend properly. Follow these tips:

  • If an object is too heavy or awkward, get help.
  • Spread your feet apart to give a wide base of support.
  • Stand as close to the object you are lifting as possible.
  • Bend at your knees, not at your waist.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object up or lower it down.
  • Hold the object as close to your body as you can.
  • Lift using your leg muscles.
  • As you stand up with the object, DO NOT bend forward.
  • DO NOT twist while you are bending for the object, lifting it up, or carrying it.

Other measures to take to prevent back pain include:

  • Avoid standing for long periods of time. If you must for your work, try using a stool. Alternate resting each foot on it.
  • DO NOT wear high heels. Use cushioned soles when walking.
  • When sitting for work, especially if using a computer, make sure that your chair has a straight back with adjustable seat and back, armrests, and a swivel seat.
  • Use a stool under your feet while sitting so that your knees are higher than your hips.
  • Place a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back while sitting or driving for long periods of time.
  • If you drive long distance, stop and walk around every hour. Bring your seat as far forward as possible to avoid bending. Don’t lift heavy objects just after a ride.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Lose weight.
  • Learn to relax. Try methods like yoga, tai chi, or massage.

Read more about Low Back Pain

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Epidural Injection

Epidural injections are a common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They have been used for low back problems since 1952 and are still an integral part of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain. The goal of the injection is pain relief; at times the injection alone is sufficient to provide relief, but commonly an epidural injection is used in combination with a comprehensive rehabilitation program to provide additional benefit.

Most practitioners will agree that, while the effects of the injection tend to be temporary – providing relief from pain for one week up to one year – an epidural can be very beneficial for a patient during an acute episode of back and/or leg pain. Importantly, an injection can provide sufficient pain relief to allow a patient to progress with a rehabilitative stretching and exercise program.

Lower Back Pain Treatment

Lower Back Pain

How Epidural Injection Work?

An epidural injection delivers medicine directly into the epidural space in the spine. Sometimes additional fluid (local anesthetic and/or a normal saline solution) is used to help ‘flush out’ inflammatory mediators from around the area that may be a source of pain.

The epidural space encircles the dural sac and is filled with fat and small blood vessels. The dural sac surrounds the spinal cord, nerve roots, and cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that the nerve roots are bathed in).

Several common conditions that cause severe acute or chronic low back pain and/or leg pain (sciatica) from nerve irritation can be treated by injections. These conditions include:

  • A lumbar disc herniation, where the nucleus of the disc pushes through the outer ring (the annulus) and into the spinal canal where it pressures the spinal cord and nerves. Read Lumbar Herniated Disc for more information on diagnosis and treatments.
  • Degenerative disc disease, where the collapse of the disc space may impinge on nerves in the lower back.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that literally chokes off nerves and the spinal cord, causing significant pain.
  • Compression fractures in a vertebra.
  • Cysts which are in the facet joint or the nerve root and can expand to squeeze spine structures.

The epidural injection procedure takes place in a surgery center, hospital, or a physician’s clinic.

Epidural Injection Pain Relief Success Rate

Patients will find that the benefits of an epidural steroid injection include a reduction in pain, primarily in leg pain (also called sciatica or radicular pain). Patients seem to have a better response when the epidural injections are coupled with an organized therapeutic exercise program.

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