The lower part of your back is responsible for supporting all of your upper body, so it’s no wonder most people report feeling some pain and strain there at some point. Experts estimate up to 80% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
The pain typically starts either with one significant back injury or builds up over years of wear on the spine and its supporting muscles and ligaments. Once it begins it can be aggravated by poor posture, excess weight, smoking, repetitive motions and lack of support when you lift heavy objects.
Making these changes can decrease the pain you’re feeling, regardless of how it began:
- Maintain good posture while you sit or stand, keeping your spine in alignment. The best posture holds your head in alignment with your spine and doesn’t allow rounding of the back to interfere with the natural curvature of your spine.
- When you must lift heavier objects, bend at the knees instead of the waist. Avoid twisting your back, using your hips whenever you must turn to the side.
- Avoid long periods of sitting down, which put stress on your spine, discs and muscles.
- Continue to exercise as often as you can, but stay within your comfort zone and don’t attempt any vigorous activities that could aggravate your back pain.
- Stretch your back muscles gently if you can without aggravating your pain. Some stretches to try include lying on your back and pulling your knees up to your chest or lying on your stomach, arms stretched outward, and lifting your chest and/or legs off the floor (the “Superman”).
- Consider using over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, but ask your health care provider first about any concerns you have about them.
If your lower back pain lasts longer than four to six weeks, you should consult your health care provider about other treatment. Call them sooner if the pain is unbearable or you have other symptoms such as extreme fatigue or signs of infection.
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