It doesn’t matter whether you are a desk jockey, athlete, construction worker, stay-at-home mom or retiree, you will more than likely experience some level of back pain and discomfort throughout your life. Researchers and doctors agree that low back pain is one of the leading major health problems in today’s society. With cooler temperatures and less than favorable conditions, back pain can be even more present this time of year heading into Fall and Winter.
According to industry reports, 70 to 85 percent of people in the U.S. experience low back pain some time in their lives. Each year, 5 to 10 percent of the workforce misses work due to low back pain and almost 10 percent of all patients are at risk for developing chronic pain and disability.1
Back Pain Triggers
One of the most frustrating characteristics of back pain is its ability to sneak up on you when you least expect it. You bend over to pick up your toddler from the bathtub and an unexpected pain shoots through your back and shoulders. You end the day feeling great after going on a weekend bike ride with buddies or playing a friendly flag football game with family, but wake up the next morning with your back muscles as stiff as an iron rod. Or, you may have spent the day in a long board meeting with few scheduled breaks and by the time you get your exhausted body to bed, all you can do is toss and turn because of a dull constant pain buzzing throughout your neck, back and shoulders. Sound familiar?
Industry statistics indicate that 97 percent of non-specific back pain problems are triggered by outside influences such as muscle strains, awkward movements, staying in a static position for too long, or when the combination of minor stresses occur together. The most common reported causes of low-back pain include:
- Heavy Physical Work
- Pulling and Pushing
- Repetitive Work Patterns
- Static Postures
Back pain usually is discovered when causes like the ones listed above are combined with an individual’s poor body stability, tone, flexibility and balance.2
Back Pain Remedies
So, what types of remedies should you use to combat back pain? Experts suggest taking a holistic approach to reducing back pain incidents by keeping your body fit with proper exercise and diet, using relaxation techniques such as massage and yoga, and enlisting proper posture practices such as ergonomically correct computer stations, strengthening core muscles and sleeping on your back or side with pillows supporting your knees and back.3
As an accepted part of many physical rehabilitation programs, massage therapy has proven beneficial for many chronic conditions, including low back pain. Massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and humanistic approach to combating back pain based on the body's natural ability to heal itself. A 2011 study compared structural and relaxation (Swedish) massage techniques, and found that both types of massage worked well to remedy chronic low back pain with few side effects. The study also found that massage helps people with back pain function better even after six months, which can help support their ability to work, take care of themselves and be active. 4
For those who use massage as a preventative measure to back pain or to manage daily back stress, one massage a month is common. Weekly massage sessions may be necessary for injury relief or to relieve chronic neck or back tightness that interferes with your daily life. If this is the case, weekly sessions are essential in order to build on each week's improvements in healing until the desired results have been achieved.
The backbone of yoga practice and purpose is increasing an individual’s flexibility, while lengthening and strengthening a body’s muscles and mind’s focus. In relation to alleviating back pain specifically, recent studies have revealed that yoga classes have been linked to better back-related function and diminished symptoms from chronic low back pain. In one of the largest U.S. yoga studies to date, back-related functionality improved and symptoms were diminished with yoga at 12 weeks, while clinical benefits such as reduced use of pain medications lasted at least six months.5
Balance and Stability
Another common remedy to combat back pain is adding balance and stability moves to your daily activities. There are various poses and stability exercises that target your back muscles and core, but three simple balance movements that can get you started include: Bird Dog (extending your opposite hand and leg while on your hands and knees); Superman (extending both arms and legs while lying on your stomach); and Plank (holding your body off the floor by leaving your forearms and toes touching the floor). Start by holding each movement for 10 seconds and increase your time as you become stronger.
At some point in your life, you will more than likely experience some level of back pain. Whether it’s spending too much time hunched over your computer, shoveling heavy loads of wet, dense snow, or twisting your body during a workout, back pain has a way of creeping up on you. The key to alleviating back pain is to take a holistic approach to treating and preventing your muscle aches and strains. By using a combination of the relaxation, flexibility and stability building techniques described above, low back pain can become a thing of the past, allowing you to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
1 Buselli P, Bosoni R, Buse G, Fasoli P, La Scala E, Mazzolari R, Zanetti F, Messina S. Trial Abstract for Effectiveness evaluation of a SMATH System, October 2011.
2 Chaitow, Leon. Massage & Bodywork Magazine, June/July 2006.
3 Buford, Darren. Massage & Bodywork Magazine, August/September 2001.
4 Group Health Research Institute. Annals of Internal Medicine, July 2011.
5 Karen J. Sherman; Daniel C. Cherkin; Robert D. Wellman; Andrea J. Cook; Rene J. Hawkes; Kristin Delaney; Richard A. Deyo. A Randomized Trial Comparing Yoga, Stretching, and a Self-care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011.