Six ways to treat lower back pain

GEHA | November 11, 2020

health and wellness everyday health exercise
Here are several ways to treat lower back pain in the muscular system.

Lower back pain is a common occurrence. No age group or demographic is immune. The pain can be a dull ache or a sharp, shooting pain. It can develop as a result of lifting something heavy or doing too strenuous of an exercise. Sometimes, it may appear for seemingly no reason at all.

Most lower back pain is acute, lasting for just a few days or couple weeks. If the pain is persistent for more than 12 weeks, it is considered chronic back pain. Only 20% of people who have acute back pain develop chronic lower back pain.

In most cases, lower back pain is the result of sprained ligaments, tears in tendons or muscle and spasms, or sudden contractions of muscles. It may arise from an injury playing sports, overexertion or automobile accident. Other common causes include weight gain, inconsistent exercises, overloading a backpack or heavy pushing and pulling.

Here are several ways to treat lower back pain in the muscular system. As with any important health decision, consult with your doctor and coordinate an action plan before doing anything.

Physical therapy. Exercise is the best way to treat back pain. Some therapies may attempt to retrain your posture or test the limits of your pain tolerance. You may also do stretching, flexibility, aerobic or core strengthening exercises.

Meditation. Back pain can often bring frustration, irritability and depression. One way to deal with these emotional side effects is through meditation, yoga or tai chi.

Diet. Eating foods high in trans fat or refined sugars, or eating lots of processed foods can be inflammatory. Changing what you eat can help you feel better in the short term and work as a long-term fix by helping you lose weight and reduce spinal pressure.

Lifestyle changes. A sore back might be your body’s way to ask you to take better care of yourself. Take a break during strenuous work or make several trips carrying smaller loads, rather than trying to get everything at once. Notice which activities worsen pain and try to avoid them.

Alternative treatments. Acupuncture, massage, electrical nerve stimulation and other nonsurgical treatments can help patients with chronic back pain.

Medicine. This can include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and other over-the-counter medications. Many of these medicines have other, unwanted side effects and are not intended for long-term use.

You may notice that none of these remedies involve X-rays, MRI imaging or CT scans. Research has shown that these procedures do not provide enough information to warrant their time or cost. Several neurological associations and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend no imaging except under extreme circumstances. In other studies, there was no difference in outcome between patients with lower back pain who had the imaging and those with the same condition who had no imaging.

So save the radiography and start stretching your way to feeling better.


Sources:
"Low back pain fact sheet." ninds.nih.gov, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, March, 2020.
"7 ways to treat chronic back pain without surgery." hopkinsmedicine.org, Johns Hopkins Medicine, no date provided.
"Early imaging for back pain and clinical outcomes in older adults: A brief summary of findings and key points for clinician-patient discussions." effectivehealth.ahrq.gov, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 13 May, 2016.
"The use of imaging in management of patients with low back pain." ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 24 August, 2018.
"Noninvasive treatments for low back pain." ahrq.gov, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 15 November, 2016.