Low back pain can really interfere with your quality of life. Some people get frustrated when they can’t seem to find anything that will help them get relief. Most of the solutions you find online are extremely basic and generally unhelpful, like “take medication” or “buy a new mattress”. Here are 6 simple remedies that could help you get the relief that you need.
1. Get Enough Sleep
With any injury it is important to get enough sleep. A lot of our recovery occurs when we are sleeping, so the longer we sleep the better our recovery. It also helps to reduce stress, which is a big factor that can amplify back pain. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to optimize recovery and stress relief.
2. Just Breathe
Speaking of stress relief, breathing can be extremely helpful in that department. One issue a lot of people have is mouth breathing. Normal and effortless breathing occurs through the nose. When we breathe through our mouth it requires extra effort from other muscles that usually only assist in breathing with high intensity exercise. It also makes most of our air fill the chest cavity instead of the abdominal cavity. Filling the abdominal cavity helps to support our low back through intra-abdominal pressure.
Breathing is also connected to our nervous system. We have our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Mouth/chest breathing is a sure fire way to ramp up your sympathetic nervous which increases stress and can create excess tension in our muscles. We want to increase our parasympathetic tone when we are at rest (since we are not exercising or running away from a bear). We can do this with deep inhales through the nose and long exhales out the mouth. Breathing is one of the first things we usually address with our clients.
3. Avoid Painful Positions
One of the most important things to do when trying to let your back pain heal is to temporarily avoid positions that cause or increase your pain. If you continue to reaggravate it, then it will take much longer to heal. The same as if you were to pick at a scab. Leave it alone and let it heal on its own.
Inventory your movements throughout the day. Does sitting for long periods hurt your back? Does bending over irritate it? Does reaching overhead feel uncomfortable? What about standing for a long time? Back pain typically follows patterns and we can look at these to determine what the cause of your pain is and how to start getting immediate relief.
4. Try Heat, Not Ice
Heat can be helpful for some people to loosen up the muscles and reduce some pain. It may be useful for bringing blood flow into the muscles and supporting recovery. This will be temporary though, so don’t assume you can melt your pain away. There is still work to be done for permanent relief.
I never recommend ice because it can be more harmful than helpful. Ice prevents normal inflammatory reactions. Inflammation is not as evil as everyone likes to make it out to be. It is a normal reaction that protects our bodies. However, it is only supposed to go on for a certain period of time and ice can prolong this process. Choose ice over heat, or even better choose activity over heat.
5. Stop Stretching Your Back
Everyone’s reaction to a perception of tightness is to stretch the muscle that feels tight. This is not always the right answer, honestly it is the wrong answer most of the time. We have found that there are two pretty common reasons why the low back muscles tighten up.
One reason is that the hip flexors are tight, or have increased muscle tone. One of the hip flexors, the psoas, attaches to the front side of the lower spine. The psoas pulls forward on the spinal bones, or vertebrae. In reaction to this the low back muscles can tighten up to pull backwards on the bones and balance out the forces. Reducing tone in the hip flexor can eliminate the need for the back muscles to tighten up as well.
The other reason we see is that the core muscles aren’t able to stabilize properly, so the low back muscles tighten up in an attempt to create a strong and stable spine. This is more so when we are lifting heavier weights as opposed to in our everyday life.
Based on the issues above, you could actually make the issue worse if you stretch the low back muscles. They are just trying to find a way to create stability from some other weakness around the spine. Address the root cause of the problem and the low back will relax as a result.
6. Strengthen Your Back and Booty
Exercise in general has been shown to be an extremely effective way to eliminate back pain. We also want to improve the strength around our low back and hips. Strengthening the gluteal muscles will help support your back, since they are supposed to be one of the main drivers when standing up, picking something off the ground, squatting, or deadlifting.
Instead of using the word “strengthening” for the low back, it’s more accurate to say “stabilize”. The difference is that strength is our ability to produce force to move a weight, Stability is being able to resist force and prevent movement. Bird dogs, planks, side planks, and dead bugs are great examples of stability exercises where the goal is to keep your core from moving.
If you want more permanent relief from your low back pain and get it taken care of quickly, so that you can get back to living your best life without limits, then click the button below to request a Free Discovery Visit!
Tight hip flexors can be annoying for lifters and runners. It can limit your ability to squat, run, or even walk. Everyone’s instinct when they feel tightness is to stretch the “tight” muscle, but what if that muscle is not the real problem?
What is “Tightness”?
I will have people tell me that their hamstrings feel tight, yet they can bend over and touch their toes. In most cases, it’s not that the muscle is short. Instead, the nervous system is increasing the “tone” of the muscle which creates the sensation of tightness. The same thing goes for the hip flexor muscles.
Are Your Hip Flexors Short?
The Thomas Test is a classic test for assessing hip flexor tightness. If you do this test and your thigh can touch the table with knee straight and knee bent, then you do NOT have shortened hip flexors.
Why Do Your Hip Flexors Really Feel “Tight”?
The psoas is one of the main hip flexors that is a common culprit of feeling tight. The poas has attachments to the spine and has been shown to be a contributor to spinal stability. When the core muscles are weak, then the body searches for somewhere else to gain stability. So it calls upon the psoas and reflexively tightens it to support the spine.
How to Remedy Tight Hip Flexors
So instead of stretching the hip flexors constantly, work on improving core stability. No, this does not mean do more crunches. Exercises that require you to round your back are fine, but they do nothing in terms of stability. Work on stabilizing in all planes of motion (flexion/extension, lateral bending, and rotation). The McGill Big 3 is a good place to start. The three exercises are the curl up, side plank, and bird dog. Here is a good video explaining them!
Are hip issues preventing you from participating in your favorite sports and activities? Click the link below to request a FREE Discovery Visit! We will get to the bottom of what is causing your pain or tightness and let you know how we will help you fix it.