Living with Lower Back Pain

For patients with lower back pain, the condition can prevent them from going about their everyday routine as they usually would. There are several ways to help patients living with lower back pain to improve their quality of life and enable them to partake in activities as normal. These include:

Low-impact exercise and stretching

It is important for individuals with lower back pain to stay physically active, and maintain the strength and flexibility of the muscles that provide support to the spine and lower back. Stretching and low-impact exercises are the most beneficial, as they help to increase strength without adding to the stress and strain on the area. Activities that may be particularly helpful include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga

If patients have had a prolonged period of inactivity, reintroducing this type of low-impact exercise to regain strength is especially important.

Stretching is important to improve the flexibility of the connective tissues and can help to prevent worsening of lower back pain. This is essential before and after any physical activity that may put a strain on the back muscles.

women stretching yoga

Posture

Another influential factor in the development of lower back pain is the way that people hold their body while standing or sitting. All patients should be advised to avoid slouching and focus on keeping a good posture constantly, as this helps reduce the abnormal curvature of the spine.

Some good tips to improve posture include:

  • Use work surfaces that are a comfortable height for the individual
  • Adjust the seat to the appropriate position and height for the task
  • Opt for a chair with good lumbar support
  • Keep the shoulders back and the back straight
  • Move around and stretch muscles regularly during intervals, to relieve muscle tension
  • Place a small firm pillow behind the lower back to increase lumbar support
  • Wear comfortably-fitting footwear
  • Sleep on a firm surface
  • Avoid sleeping on the stomach

Diet and lifestyle

Excess weight is associated with an increased risk of lower back pain, due to the additional stress on the spine and connective tissues. For this reason, it is helpful for people affected by lower back pain to lose weight if they are too heavy. Both regular physical activity and a healthy diet are important to do this. A diet with an adequate intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D should be recommended, to promote the strengthening of bones.

Smoking reduces the blood flow to the lower spine and, as a result, smokers are more likely to be affected by spinal disc degeneration, osteoporosis, coughing, and lower back pain. Therefore, it is recommended for patients with lower back pain who smoke to quit as soon as possible.

Mental health

Individuals with chronic lower back pain are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, such as depression, due to the effects of the condition. It can be difficult to cope with the lifestyle changes that lower back pain can necessitate. Another challenge is the difficulty people may experience in going about their normal daily routine. Additionally, people with lower back pain who opt for bed rest have a further heightened risk of depression.

It is important for patients to have a strong support network and continue to participate in activities that they enjoy. With appropriate pain management techniques, it should be possible for patients to resume such activities, which helps to improve their quality of life and mental health.

Prevention

Lower back pain is most often caused by mechanical stress or strain to the spine or connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments in the lower back. Certain activities can increase the risk of mechanical stress and developing or worsening lower back pain. These include heavy lifting, poor posture, repetitive motion, vibration and contact stress. As a result, individuals affected by or prone to low back pain may benefit from avoiding such activities. In other words, this can help reduce the risk or severity of pain.

Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD

References

  1. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm#3102_3
  2. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/310353-followup#showall
  3. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_your_back_and_neck/hic_How_to_Cope_When_You_Have_Low_Back_Pain

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 3, 2017

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