Lower Back Pain? Here’s How to Reduce Pain Without Drugs or Surgical Interventions

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what type of back pain sufferer are you

If you’re one of the over 31 million Americans that suffers day in and day out from back pain, then what you’re about to learn in this article could save you years of misery and thousands of dollars.

Americans spend over 50 million dollars a year on tests and procedures that promise to relieve their back pain.1 But according to a study by BioMed Central Health Services Research, individuals who are adherent to exercise protocol for 90 days used significantly less imaging, spinal injections, surgery, and opioids for pain relief.2

So are MRIs and Surgical Procedures the Best Approach?

Before you see your doctor and prepare to go under the knife, know this: education and exercise can save you from dreaded and unnecessary operations and potentially solve your problems without emptying your bank account.

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The cause of low back pain varies from individual to individual. The back contains a multitude of ligaments, joints, discs, muscles, tendons, and fascia, all of which can cause pain. In this article, I will discuss the 3 most common causes of back pain and how to address each one using stretching exercises.

For each exercise program, complete twice a day. If the exercises exacerbate your pain or symptoms, take a few days off until your symptoms reside and slowly ease back into the program. If your pain does not improve in two weeks, schedule an appointment with your physical therapist or primary care physician.

#1 Disc Pathology: When it hurts to bend forward

People with disc pathology tend to have pain with spinal flexion, pain is worsened when they bend down and touch their toes and relieved when they arch their back backwards. Individuals with discal back pain also tend to have symptoms that radiate down one or both lower extremities. These symptoms can range form numbness and tingling to achiness or weakness. If these symptoms sound like you, perform the following exercises:

back pain disc trouble

# 2 Stenosis: When it hurts to arch backwards

If your symptoms and pain are exacerbated with extension (arching your trunk backwards) and improved with flexion, you may have stenosis. Individuals with stenosis also tend to have leg pain that is more prominent than back pain. Pain with stenosis tends to be relieved with bending forward, but also with sitting. Pain is exacerbated with walking and standing; many patients with stenosis cannot tolerate prolonged ambulation or standing.

Stenosis occurs when the vertebral canal narrows. This puts pressure on the nerves that innervate the lower extremities.  If these symptoms sound like you, perform the following exercises:

back pain disc trouble stenosis

#3 Muscle Strain: When something triggers the pain

Like many other joints in the human body, muscles surrounding the spine can become inflamed and irritated when something triggers a strainor injury. For example, if your back pain began after lifting a heavy object, you may have strained a muscle. With muscle strains, resting, NSAIDs, ice, and gentle stretching exercises can help speed up the healing and recovery time. If you recall a specific mechanism of injury, and your pain began less than two weeks ago, follow these exercises:

back pain disc trouble strain1

When to call your doctor:

If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms associated with your back pain, seek medical attention.

  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits (urinary/bowel incontinence, constipation, loose stools, etc.)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Inability to find a comfortable position; pain is not relieved with rest or inactivity
  • Fever and/or malaise
  • Low back pain caused by trauma
  • Night pain
  • Numbness in buttocks, thighs, genitalia
  • History of prolonged corticosteroid use

References

1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
2. Childs, J.D., Fritz, J.M., Wu, S.S., et al. (2015) Implications of early and guideline adherent physical therapy for low back pain on utilization and costs. BMC Health Serv. Res. 15, 150. doi: 10.1186/s12913-015-0830-3
3. PT Presentation Notes. ”15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ericavijay.net/resources/erica-pt/>.
4. Training for the Deep Muscles of the Core.” Diane Lee & Associates Physiotherapy. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.dianelee.ca/article-training-deep-core-muscles.php>.
5. The Bird Dog Exercise Progression – The Proactive Athlete.” The Proactive Athlete. N.p., 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.theproactiveathlete.ca/blog/the-bird-dog-exercise-progression/>.
6. Do Weak Hips Cause Pronation?” Runner’s World. N.p., 12 Dec. 2009. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/do-weak-hips-cause-pronation>.
7. Rumford, Peter. “30 Minute Golf Workout | TweakFit.” Tweak Fit. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://tweakfit.com/30-minute-golf-workout>.
8. Exercises for the Spine.” 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www2.nau.edu/~mtl8/Ther_Ex_files/
Spine_ex.htm>.
9. Beginning Poses.” California Yoga Center. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.californiayoga.com/beginning-poses/>.
10. Low Back Stretching.” Melbourne Osteopathy Group.15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.osteoinfo.com.au/self-management/self-management-and-the-low-back/low-back-stretching>.
11. Recommended Stretching Exercises for Figure Skaters.” Skate Canada. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.skating-wos.on.ca/sportsci/stretch.htm>


12-10-2015 10-10-34 AM Rebecca Simonds received her doctorate in physical therapy at Emory University, and currently practices at Drayer Physical Therapy Incorporated, an outpatient orthopedic clinic outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rebecca treats patients with a multitude of diagnosis from orthopedic injuries to neurological disorders. She is also certified in intramuscular manuals therapy, or dry needling.


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One response to “Lower Back Pain? Here’s How to Reduce Pain Without Drugs or Surgical Interventions”

  1. Marcia says:

    When I sit more than 15 minutes my low back, butt and back of my legs hurt. What kind of exercise can I do to strength the muscles?