Tips to ease back pain written by Physical Therapist Dr Jay Hartnett in Wilmington, DE
1) Try to identify a pattern to your pain.
What movements, positions & activities aggravate your back? Try to modify or avoid those things if possible.
What movements, positions & activities make your back feel better? Do more of those things.
2) Be mindful of your posture!
If you get back pain while standing, assess your posture. Watch the video below & go through my postural setup to help improve your alignment & decrease your pain.
3) Sleep well!
The contours of your body should be well supported when you rest. Avoid sleeping on your belly as that stresses your back. Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs or lay on your back with a couple of pillows under your legs. These positions should help take stress off your back!
4) Daily stretching.
Make it a habit to do a few simple stretches in the morning & evening to keep your back healthy as well. Your stretches don’t need to be fancy & you don’t even have to get down on the floor. Try these gentle standing stretches: side-bending, forward-bending, back-bending & rotation. These exercises are meant to get your back loosened up & should feel good. If any of these stretches makes you feel worse, hold off on it until you see a physical therapist.
5) Tighten your abs and keep good posture when pushing, pulling or lifting.
Ideally, we should keep our backs in a neutral position when we are doing physical activity. Brace your abs like someone was going to hit you in the stomach. The intensity of your bracing should be proportional to the intensity of your activity. If you’re just standing or walking, around 20% of your max contraction is fine. If you are moving something heavy, then you want a stronger ab contraction to keep your back safe.
6) Avoid prolonged positions.
Humans were designed to be active; however, now-a-days, we often have to sit or stand in one place for prolonged periods of time. Even if we have the best intentions of keeping “good posture,” fatigue sets in & we end up slouching or “lazy standing” which can aggravate our backs. It is best to break up long periods of standing or sitting when possible. Set a timer to go off every hour if you have to sit for prolonged periods (you could do this on your phone). Stand up & do a few stretches to offset your slouched posture. These mini break takes as little as 30 seconds & will help you sit more comfortably longer.
7) Ice trumps heat for pain relief.
Ideally, lay down in your most comfortable position & ice for 10-15 minutes. Icing decreases inflammation which contributes to pain. Heat may feel good & may also help with stiffness; however, heat can actually increase inflammation. Large gel ice packs work best & you can order them on Amazon. I prefer the Chattanooga ColPac Cold Therapy, X-Large/Oversized Cold Pack (11″ x 21″) which is flexible & easily folds for storage in your freezer.
Walking is a low impact activity that is great for our health. Find ways to get a little more walking in during the day such as parking further away, walking during your lunch break or walking after dinner. Walking is great for your circulation, helps relieve stress & is a nice way to see more places & people.
9) Wear proper footwear.
High heels & flip flops may look good, but they put more stress & strain on your back. Wearing comfortable shoes will allow you to go about your day without as much aches & pain.
10) See a Physical Therapist (PT).
A good PT can help identify why you are in pain or having difficulty performing the activities you enjoy. They will help ease your pain with hands-on treatment & restore your normal mobility with corrective exercises so that you can return to the activities that you love! At Hartnett Physical Therapy, you do not need a physician referral before you start treatment. Give us a call today to see how we can help you: )
To your health,
Dr Jay Jay Hartnett
800 Woodlawn Ave. Suite B
Wilmington, DE 19805