How to Ease Back Pain in time for the Holidays
While there are no great times to deal with the life changing impact of Sciatica or Low back pain, I think we can all agree that the holidays are the worst. From gritting your way through hours of travel to grandma's house where every bump in the road going over the river and through the woods sends a white hot poker down your leg and a spasm to your spine to feeling the need to pop a pill just to make it through prepping the turkey and gravy, back pain and sciatica can cause endless amounts of suffering this time of year. This is especially true if you’re the one everybody is counting on to make the magic of the season happen.
With that said, we're 3 weeks out from turkey day and 8 from Christmas and there's still time left to not have pain be an unwanted guest this holiday season.
In this post we’ll cover 3 things you can start doing today to begin naturally healing your low back.
First, we need to cover what exactly is going on when dealing with low back pain or suffering from sciatica and what in particular we look at when doing our Total Body Diagnostic Test for Sciatica and Low Back Pain.
What causes Low Back Pain
Have you been told that a bulging disc is causing your back pain? Could back arthritis be causing sciatica? Is stenosis to blame for back pain? The good news is that while we once thought that what was seen on imaging was the end of the story for back pain(i.e. You were stuck with your back pain because of what they saw on MRI), we now know that the imaging is only part of the story. In fact, less than 5-10% of back pain causes can be seen on an MRI. Things like disk degeneration were found in 68% of pain free 40 year olds and 80% of 50 year olds. This gives hope, especially when you know the triggers for your back pain. Triggers for back pain could be that you sat for too long or were standing for too long, or that bending over triggered your sciatica. Or, maybe everything seems to trigger your back pain. Either way, when we know that our back pain can be made worse by movement, the good news is that movement can also be part of the answer in how you heal your spine. Why?
Know Pain Know Gain
First off, pain is quite simply your alarm system going off. Each person has an amazing alarm system that warns us of when we might be in danger. The problem with chronic pain, especially chronic back pain, is that our alarm system begins being overprotective. You can tell the signs of your alarm system being overprotective when you can only sit for a short amount of time before having to move or that stress or temperature changes can trigger your pain. Some people can trigger their pain by just seeing someone else bending forward…
How to start Healing
Does the pain get worse with sitting? The first thing you can do is, if you know how long you are able to sit before your back pain or sciatica starts, then you want to get out ahead of it...literally. If you are able, take a 5 minute posture break by getting out of your chair and walking around. More often than not, you are not actually damaging anything by sitting there but the pain can continue getting worse because our alarm system is sensitive to the pressure from sitting. Whether that is pain going down the leg or just not being able to straighten your back, taking the 5 minutes sooner rather than later can make it so you arrive without debilitating back pain.
Next, if you have back pain while washing dishes, cooking, or just standing for too long, try some gentle stretches about every 30 minutes to ease back stiffness and give your body a break. Try to avoid the same position over and over, especially if bending over at the sink, washing machine, or a desk causes back pain. One way to ease this is by switching your stance. How to do this? Start with how you normally wash the dishes. Every few minutes then switch so you have 1 leg in front(not quite a lunge stance but just enough so one leg takes more of the load). Then switch every few minutes so your muscles take the load and not your spine.
Next, staying hydrated through the holidays and avoiding too many caffeinated or alcoholic drinks can also help ease pain. How? Both alcohol and caffeine irritate the nervous system. When the nervous system is irritated, it makes it easier for the back to hurt. In addition, both can ruin a good night's sleep which then makes pain worse the following day.
Also-many people ask which is better, hot or cold for low back pain. What I've found here at our clinic is that for muscle and back pain, heat tends to work best to ease stiff backs and tight muscles as well as ease the aches from back pain and sciatica.
Confused about where to start? Book a call from the comfort of your home or office and on your schedule with one of our Back Pain Specialists. You can schedule your call here. Need help now? Come by and talk with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy at no charge. We offer FREE consultations, which give you the opportunity to come in and meet us and see for yourself how we can help you.
Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our free consultation:
What is the underlying cause of your pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)
Roughly, how long will it take to fix the problem?
What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.
What other, natural, drug free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?
Our consultations are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physio is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you.
If you’d like one of our limited free consultation sessions, please click here to schedule your free consultation or CALL us on 850-765-2779 to make a no-obligation enquiry.
About the Author
Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for 20 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town. He's the author of 4 pain relief guides for sciatica, low back, shoulder, and knees and the lead contributor to the Active Tallahassee Blog.