There are many ways to relieve low back pain, but first, it is essential to determine the cause of the pain by seeking medical attention.
A physician or provider will examine the area, check for signs and symptoms of more serious disease, and possibly order diagnostic tests, such as laboratory tests and x-rays.
Since x-rays only show bones, if more detailed information is needed, other tests can be obtained, such as a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, or diagnostic ultrasound.
Those treatments include the following:
- Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT)
- Chiropractic care
- Hot and cold therapy
- Steroid injections
- Lifestyle changes
These treatments are all fine for low back pain from musculoskeletal causes, but for this article, we will discuss additional ways to treat low back pain.
1. Ascertain and correct the issue causing the low back pain.
If possible, try to correct the issue causing the low back pain, such as posturing. If caused by positioning at work, an ergonomic evaluation can help.
Sometimes, low back pain can be caused by something you are doing at home. It can be as simple as limiting the amount you bend or lifting with proper posture (using the knees to bear the lifting weight instead of the low back).
2. Cardiovascular exercises combined with weight training and stretching.
Ideally, one should combine cardiovascular exercise (aerobic exercise) with stretching and weight training (anaerobic exercise).
In people with low back pain, as far as cardiovascular exercises are concerned, there may be a need for caution with certain activities. For example, even though jogging, regular walking, and speed walking are great cardiovascular activities, in some people with low back pain, they could be harmful.
This being harmful is especially true of outdoor jogging since the low back vertebrae are compressed and jarred whenever the body leaves the ground and lands, especially on hard surfaces. Other exercise activities may be better tolerated, such as biking, elliptical machines, and swimming; they are non-impact and place less strain on the lower back.
If you enjoy jogging or walking, but it aggravates your low back pain, then we recommend jogging or walking on softer surfaces, such as a treadmill, grass, sand, or a padded track.
3. Low back brace.
A low back brace can help for two reasons. First, it gives additional support to the muscles of the low back, although the amount of support has been the subject of much debate.
Second, and most importantly, when the user feels the pressure from the brace, it reminds them to use proper posturing and technique when performing certain activities.
4. Lumbar support (to maintain the spine's normal curvature).
Looking at the spine from the side, you will notice the lumbar spine has a natural curve called lumbar lordosis.
Most people allow their lower backs to be improperly flat against the surface when sitting, but lumbar support can keep the low back in its proper neutral position. Many office chairs and car seats have built-in lumbar supports; if not, one can be purchased or added.
Lumbar supports are particularly important for people who drive much or for a living. If little or no lumbar support is assembled into the car seat and no other lumbar support is available, rolling up a small towel and placing it against the lower car seat can help.
The headrest pillow can function as makeshift lumbar support for those who travel much on airlines; however, they can be soft, and several pillows may be needed.
5. Traction devices
Numerous low back traction devices on the market help stretch the vertebra; however, studies have shown differing results concerning low back traction. Some studies have shown no significant improvement with traction, while others have noted significant improvement.
Thus, we recommend you try the traction device to see if it improves your low back pain. If it helps and there are no side effects, continue using the traction device; if it is not helping, then discontinue use.
The lumbar traction device can help separate the space between two consecutive low back vertebrae, increasing mobility and relieving pressure on pinched nerves.
6. Inversion table
The theory behind an inversion table is to reverse the pull of gravity on the low back. The forces of gravity compress the lumbar vertebra, pulling them towards the tailbone when sitting or standing.
When you are upside down on an inversion table, the forces of gravity are reversed on the lumbar spine vertebra, allowing relief from the compression.
Like the lumbar traction, it helps some people, but not all.
7. Sneakers and shoes
A good pair of sneakers or shoes can be important for preventing and treating low back pain, especially in people who stand or walk much of the day.
Remember, everyone's feet are different, and just because a particular brand or style works well with one person does not mean it will work well with another, especially in people with wide or narrow feet.
Having a trained person measure your feet and fit you with the proper footwear is ideal.
Conditions such as pes planus (flat feet) and pes cavus (high arched feet) can cause low back pain due to altered posture and gait (a person’s pattern or style of walking); these conditions have been known to respond well to pre-made or custom orthotics.