How can I alleviate lower back pain?

While lower back pain can have numerous causes, two areas of the body that can have a profound impact on the health and comfort of the lower back are the hips and thoracic spine (mid-back). The body will always seek the path of least resistance. So, when the hip joints and thoracic spine—which by design should be very mobile—are restricted due to tight muscles and poor posture, then the lower back is forced to pick up the slack.

To show your lower back some love, help loosen up those hips and mid-back by completing the following exercise circuit (all exercises completed in row without rest) at least 3 times a week:

  • Foam Roll: Glutes/ Outer Hip
  • Foam roll: Front of the thigh
  • Foam roll: Thoracic spine/ mid-back

Find 1-3 tender spots per area and hold each spot for at least 30 seconds

  • Static stretch: Hip flexor muscles (front of hip/ thigh)
  • Static stretch: Lat muscles (mid/lower back and shoulder)

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and repeat 1-3 times

  • Abs/Hips: Bridges

Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions

To alleviate low-back pain takes a comprehensive approach. 

  1. Avoid sitting for more than three hours at a time. Extended periods of sitting can cause tightness in your hips and back resulting in pain. Get up and perform some light stretches and walk for 5-10 minutes before sitting back down.
  2. Practice maintaining ideal posture; avoid slouching. Poor posture increases stress to your vertebrae and can cause pain.
  3. Stretch chronically tight muscles such as your calves, hip flexors (muscles on the front of your hips), and latissimus dorsi (large back muscles). Tight muscles pull on your bones creating poor posture and eventually some form of trauma.
  4. Strengthen your gluteals and abdominals. These muscles help support your pelvis and spine and are extremely important to keep your back injury free.
  5. Below are some helpful exercises for your back.

Low back pain is a common symptom that is not generally associated with an illness or a specific injury. Even if the pain is severe, it can go away as quickly on its own as it does after medical treatment, sometimes more quickly. Most episodes of back pain that last more than one week diminish by themselves in about one month. To get relief from low back pain, consider these options:

  1. Take nonprescription pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, at the first onset of pain in the lower back, hip and/or leg.
  2. Apply a cold pack (or a bag of ice wrapped in a towel) to the painful area for 5-10 minutes at a time, during the first 24-48 hours of discomfort.
  3. If the pain is not better within a few days, use a heating pad on the painful area.
  4. Keep moving, but protect your back. Avoid sudden turning or bending motions. As much as you can, avoid bed rest. Go on with your usual activities as much as possible.
  5. Get help. If the pain is still intense or troublesome after one week or so, make an appointment for spinal manipulation with a licensed physical therapist, chiropractor or osteopathic physician.
  6. If the pain has not decreased to a tolerable level after 4-6 weeks, make an appointment with your healthcare professional.

Low back pain can be caused by any number of things, from poor posture to bad shoes, to an injury, to sleeping in funky positions. A few things that you can try are when you are sleeping, try to sleep on your back. If you do need a small pillow underneath your legs that is fine, but even better is a rolled up towel. I would stay away from sleeping on your stomach.

You can also explore your footwear. A lot of times shoes, especially professional shoes, and sneakers have an elevated heel. An elevated heel in the sneaker can actually put more pressure into the low back.

Examining your work station and car seat position is a good idea. Pay attention to your posture and body position whether it is picking up children or swinging a golf club. Keeping ideal body alignment and using good mechanics throughout these activities to make sure that we are doing movements that are friendly for our bones, our joints, the ligaments, and cartilage will help in the short term as well as the long term.

You can also perform some light meditation, breathing exercise, flexibility, and core stability exercises to alleviate back pain. Many of us because of 21st century living tend to have several tight muscles that prevent joints from moving and weak muscles that do not really do their job right holding us in good posture. This tends to lead to worse body alignment and putting more stress and strain on the low back.

So big picture, take a look at the position of our body at night and during the day, then look at specific stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as breathing and relaxation exercises to take tension and stress out of the low back. Take care of that back, you only get one.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.