It all started in October of 2013. I came home from the office and went upstairs to change out of my work clothes. We had family over for dinner, so I tried to multitask by taking off my pants while walking to my closet. Such a bad idea. As I stepped one pace closer to the closet with my foot still in the pant leg, my foot slipped from under me and it was like a slow motion cartoon scene. Both feet went out in front of me and luckily my hands went out quick enough to stop my head from hitting the floor, but my butt got the brunt of the pressure.
I sat there for what felt like a few minutes, then picked myself up, got dressed and went downstairs to my dinner guests. I quietly told my husband what happened, he said to ice the area, and I blew it off like I always do.
Fast forward to 2014 with one of my new year resolutions being to run 3 5Ks every quarter. I ran every weekend, beating my time each lap around the neighborhood. One particular Saturday I was exhilarated that I beat my best time yet again. I ran inside the house to tell my husband and then, as I walked upstairs to get changed, my back stiffened – to the point I couldn’t move.
Fast forward 2 x-rays and an MRI – I had a severely herniated disc between my L5 and S1 – right at the bottom of my spine, where I fell that night back in 2013. My dream of running those 5Ks went out the window, and instead of training for the races I was in and out of physical therapists’ offices, chiropractor offices, acupuncturist offices, numerous injections to each of my facets…to no avail.
Effective Ways to Manage Lower Back Pain
I don’t want surgery so I knew I needed to find ways to manage my lower back pain. After years of trying out everything under the sun, here are the 5 ways that have helped alleviate a lot of the discomfort. Please note that I am not a doctor, just someone who has been dealing with chronic lower back pain for about 4 years and will try just about anything aside from pain medication to make life a bit less painful.
HEAT OR ICE – OR BOTH?
I used to be confused as to if I should use heat or ice if my back hurt. Now I know that I should use heat before I am going to stretch – which is so important, and I will talk about it in-depth later. The heating pad loosens up my back muscles, allowing them to be a bit more pliable.
I use ice for about 15 – 20 minutes at a time if my back bothers me after exercising or just randomly throughout the day. Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory, but only lasts so long before it starts to ache again.
PATCHES, SALVES AND SPRAYS
Salon Pas has come a long way since the days of smelly ointments and patches. I was sent a package from Salon Pas back in December and when I opened the box, it was like I was opening a Christmas gift! I was so excited to try the different products out. The patches with the lidocaine work the best for me, but I’ve heard great things about the other patches as well as the spray. Read the directions to see how long you can keep the patches on.
STRETCHING & EXERCISE
One of the most important things I learned while at the different physical therapy offices was that stretching is key. Once my back tightens up, it’s all over. There are so many different stretches that you can do, depending on the particular area of your back you want to work on.
I personally love going to pilates as it is a combination of stretching and toning. With the combination of resistance from the springs and body weight, I feel that the different exercises and stretches have significantly helped me strengthen my core, therefore protect my back from further damage.
ASSESS YOUR WORK AREA
I sit for hours at a time in front of a computer screen. Sitting down causes a lot of weight to land on my lower pack and tailbone. There are a few changes you can make to create the most comfortable working conditions possible.
It sounds weird at first, but swapping out your conventional desk for a standing desk may make all the difference. Standing alleviates the pressure that would normally be placed on your lower back.
There are a handful of different desk chairs out there that can make your workday that much more comfortable.
Office chair with lumbar support – These chairs are the most commonly found. They look like traditional desk chairs, but offer additional support to your lower back in the form of a bump out/curvature. You can try out one of the attachable back supports before investing in a new chair – to see if it truly does help you.
Yoga ball chair – These chairs are the most “fun”. The chair is quite interesting looking (as in not the most aesthetically pleasing) and you need to measure to see that once you are sitting on it, that you can comfortably reach the desktop with your hands in the proper height for typing, etc. The yoga ball challenges your balance and helps to strengthen your core – imperative to strengthen your lower back. It wasn’t my personal favorite but I know a lot of people who swear by it. My younger son loves to steal the ball and play with it in the play room (as in dodge ball style).
Kneeling desk chair – I’d heard about these before, and after already trying the other two types out, I figured what did I have to lose? I ordered one that actually matched quite nicely with my office from Amazon. I am so happy with this chair. It allows me to shift the weight and pressure from my lower back forward to my knees. I noticed that my posture is positively affected as well, since the seat is tilted forward, I tighten and simultaneously strengthen my core.
When my sciatic is acting up, I reach for our electro stem machine. What is an electro stem machine, you may ask? There are many different types of these machines out there, but the basic gist is that it produces and releases electric current to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes.
I just adhere the little patches to the areas that ache the most, lay down on my bed and either continue working on my laptop, read a magazine or a book or watch HGTV. This little machine does wonders for me by promoting blood flow to the areas that are so tender due to pinched or aggravated nerves.
Do you happen to know any one with lower back pain? If so, what do they do to help manage the pain?