Relieve Chronic Back Pain with These 5 Tips
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1 in 5 people have chronic pain.
If you experience pain and discomfort on a daily basis, we encourage you to consult with a physical therapist who can work with you to address the symptoms and causes of your pain and help you to function better.
Are you looking for other ways to feel less pain? Here are five of our top tips, all supported by research and relatively easy to implement.
1. Make sure you are maintaining proper posture
Do you constantly slouch in your chair or hunch over your phone? Are you using proper body mechanics when picking up objects—whether it’s a heavy box, a pencil on the ground, or even your child or grandchild?
There are so many ways we move our bodies every day that may not necessarily seem problematic. But if we repeatedly put our bodies under certain types of strain, over time we can begin to experience tissue damage and chronic pain.
Consult with a physical therapist who can evaluate your posture, movement mechanics, and ergonomics. He or she can help you identify patterns and habits which you may not even be aware of but are still exacerbating your pain.
2. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet
Yes, food really is thy medicine! Research suggests that avoiding highly processed foods and consuming a lot of veggies, fruits, whole grains, high-quality protein, and healthy fats can help decrease pain.
One reason is that eating a lot of nutrient-dense foods ensures our tissues get the raw materials they need to heal and repair. Plus, when we minimize or eliminate foods in our diet that tend to promote inflammation, including alcohol and sugar, then pain our pain levels can naturally go down.
3. Get moving!
Exercise can alleviate pain by increasing blood flow, stimulating the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that provide natural pain relief, and increasing joint strength and stability. So get active—around 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days of the week.
It’s helpful to talk to a physical therapist if you have chronic pain before starting an exercise program. Your physical therapist can provide services that naturally alleviate your pain and maximize your function so exercise is easier and safer for you to do.
4. A good night’s sleep goes a long way
Sleep is essential for optimizing your body’s healing and regeneration process. It’s also an important way for managing stress. For these reasons, getting enough sleep can actually help you experience less pain.
Does pain make it tough to fall asleep or stay asleep? Try these sleep hygiene tips to make it easier:
- Sleep in a pitch black room with the bedroom temperature set to 65 to 68 degrees.
- Dim the lights and power down your electronics for at least an hour before bedtime.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning (weekends and holidays included).
5. Exercise your breathing
Deep breathing is good for your body because it helps you get plenty of healing oxygen into your tissues. But taking deep breaths also stimulates the part of the nervous system that helps you relax, which is a great way to alleviate stress and ease the pain.
The following exercise, known as four-square breathing or box breathing, has been shown to help manage pain. Sit in a comfortable position and follow these steps:
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 4 counts.
- Breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts.
- Hold at the bottom of your exhalation for 4 counts, then repeat the cycle for 2 minutes.
When back pain becomes chronic…
The unfortunate truth is that many people will recognize back pain at some point in their lives.
Many problems with back pain are associated with acute injuries, such as auto accidents, sports accidents, pregnancy pains, or injuries of the workplace from improperly lifting heavy objects. These injuries typically heal on their own and may not even need PT intervention.
However, sometimes back pain develops into a chronic problem, especially if you experience it for longer than 3 months at a time. Some conditions (such as spinal arthritis, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis) don’t heal themselves and can result in constant or recurring pain.
Other types of chronic back pain are caused by repetitive motion injuries and soft tissue strain. Weak back muscles that do not support normal posture, or musculoskeletal irregularities (such as falling arches, poor workplace, or sporting ergonomics) may also place your upper or lower back in a state of true agony. Fortunately, physical therapy can help with these chronic conditions.