Top 11 Dos and Don’ts if You Have Lower Back Pain

by Dr. Brent Wells

A man sitting on his workspace in front of a laptop and touching his lower back.
If you haven’t met someone who hasn’t experienced back pain, you will shortly! It is estimated that between 80 and 90% of people will experience low back pain at some time in their life. While low back pain is rarely caused by something serious, it still hurts badly enough that back pain is the number 2 reason people go to the emergency room. If you are experiencing low back pain right now, you are probably searching for answers. How can I improve low back pain? What is the best treatment for lower back pain? What not to do with lower back pain? These are all common questions chiropractors are asked every day. Let’s start with the top pieces of advice your chiropractor will give you for your lower back pain. There are definitely things you should do and things you should never do when your back hurts.

1) DON’T Sleep on your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is the worst possible position when you have low back pain. Sleeping in this position will put the most amount of pressure on your neck and lower back. If sleeping on your stomach is a habit, try sewing a tennis ball into the front of a shirt or your pajama top to prevent you from turning on your stomach in your sleep. The best position will be sleeping on your side or on your back. Be certain that you have a good, supportive pillow. If you sleep on your side, you might want to put a very flat pillow between your knees to help align your spine. Pillows don’t last forever! If yours is more than three years old, it is probably time for a new one. Your mattress will also make a big difference when it comes to back pain. What is the best mattress for your back anyway?

2) DO Regular Stretching Exercises

A woman doing a yoga pose.
No matter how much your back hurts, chances are that doing stretching exercises will help reduce the pain. Yoga and tai chi are probably the best stretching exercises for those with back pain. You can find free yoga classes and tai chi basics online or pick up one of the many videos available for sale. If any stretching exercise makes your back hurt, stop! Don’t be afraid to modify stretches in order to avoid low back pain. Don’t push stretching beyond your limits. You should feel a gentle stretch and not a burning or hard-pulling sensation. Your chiropractor can offer you valuable advice about what exercises and stretching programs would work best for you and recommend other ways that can help lower back pain.

3) DON’T Look down for hours at a time

Most people are completely unaware of how many hours they spend looking down at cell phones and tablets. Your job might include writing or other tasks that involve looking down. This can wreak havoc on your neck and your lower back (if you are sitting down). Take frequent breaks whenever you are using a cell phone, reading, or doing any other task that keeps you looking down. Stretch your neck and back at least every 30 minutes. If possible, move the tablet or other object higher, so you avoid looking down and slouching over.

4) DO Get Regular Chiropractic Massages

A patient's lower back
A massage is perhaps one of the most enjoyable things you can do for your back. Having one performed at your chiropractor’s office only makes sense. Performed under the direction of the chiropractor, the massage therapist will work on problem areas identified to them by the doctor, and work on restoring range of motion, relieving pain, and restoring tight muscles to a more flexible state. Schedule an appointment for a chiropractic massage at Better Health Alaska. Massage has a great many benefits. Depending on your unique situation, your chiropractor will direct the therapist to perform a particular type of massage as well as inform them of problem areas you might be having. A chiropractic massage addresses the heart of the matter and focuses on addressing your back pain, not trying to sell you a facial or pedicure.

5) DON’T Sit for long periods of time

Our bodies are not designed for sitting for long periods of time. Sitting is not only linked to many health problems, but it also wreaks havoc on your lower back. While many people must sit because of desk jobs, there are steps you can take to limit the damage done to your lower back including:
  • Get up and stretch or walk every 30-60 minutes. Set a timer if you must!
  • Use a standing desk
  • Use a yoga ball or kneeling chair instead of a regular office chair
  • Walk on your breaks, rather than sit in the cafeteria
  • Walk, pace, or just stand up when making phone calls or talking with coworkers
You might not be able to avoid sitting at your job, but you don’t have to ruin your back in exchange!
A woman touching her head in pain.

6) DON’T Perform certain exercises (or anything that causes you more pain)

If you are involved in sports, you should immediately stop playing until your back heals or until your chiropractor gives you the OK to continue. Walking, swimming, and low-impact aerobics are all back-friendly exercises you can enjoy. Lower back pain exercises you should avoid include:
  • Toe touches
  • Sit-ups
  • Leg lifts
  • Running
  • Lifting weights
If you aren’t sure about doing a particular exercise or activity, speak with your chiropractor.

7) DO Pay attention to your posture

Your mother’s advice to “stop slouching” was spot on! Too many people spend hours slumped over a keyboard, slouching on the sofa looking at television or slumped over looking down at their cell phones. Put your back against the backrest of your chair and sit up straight. Your back will thank you for it! If you aren’t sure what proper posture should be, speak with your chiropractor.

8) DON’T Carry heavy objects or wear heels

What should you not do when your back hurts? Carry a heavy backpack, briefcase, purse, or laptop bag! The added weight will only make your lower back pain worse. Avoid carrying anything that weighs more than 5 to 7 pounds. Someone once said, “If it weighs more than a cat, put it back.” If your cat weighs 25 pounds, however, this advice won’t work, of course. Don’t wear high heels either. Anything higher than 1 inch will increase the pressure on your lower back. Opt for tennis shoes or flats, rather than high heels.

9) DO Seek out Chiropractic Care

A woman getting treatment on her lower back by a chiropractor.
What is the best treatment for low back pain? Hands down, it’s chiropractic care! Even if you have severe back pain, comprehensive chiropractic care is your best option for quick pain relief and fast healing.  Studies show that chiropractic care is the most effective way to deal with low back pain. Your chiropractor will do a thorough exam, take imaging, such as x-rays, and discuss your medical history, as well as the days leading up to this episode of back pain. Depending on the results, the doctor will most likely do some very gentle spinal manipulations, order a massage, and possibly use other physical modalities such as:
  • Ultrasound
  • Cold laser
  • Heat or ice therapy
  • TENS unit
  • Spinal decompression
Chiropractors use non-invasive, holistic techniques that allow your body to heal naturally and return your spine to the proper position. If you have never been to a chiropractor before and feel nervous, you are in for a big surprise. Adjustments don’t hurt, and you will feel better almost immediately. You can find out more about what adjustments feel like in this article.

10) DON’T Lie in bed or couch surf

A woman sleeping in her bed looking happy.
We understand that back pain is sometimes so intense, you can’t do anything but put your butt in between the couch cushions, put a pillow under your knees, and hit up a Netflix marathon. This is OK for the first 24-48 hours, but after that, you are doing your back more harm than good. What can you do for severe back pain? If you literally cannot walk, stand, or sit for more than a few minutes, even after 48 hours of bed rest, you should see your chiropractor immediately or go to the emergency room. Rest for a short period of time, do some stretches, and get back on your feet!

11) DO Follow your chiropractor’s instructions

Unfortunately, many people begin to feel better very quickly after seeing their chiropractor and believe that they are on the road to healing. They stop their appointments and return quickly to their regular routine. This is an almost foolproof way to find yourself back at square one and possibly in more pain than before. The same advice should be followed with your chiropractor as you get from your doctor regarding antibiotics; always use until completion, even if you feel better earlier than expected. Following your chiropractor’s instructions for your treatment and lifestyle changes is the best way to ensure that you don’t have a repeat performance of the low back pain blues! We believe that no one should live in pain. Contact our highly recommended chiropractor at Better Health Anchorage for a same-day appointment.
An infographic with tips for getting rid of back pain.

What Can I Do About the Pain Right Now?

Until you see your chiropractor, ice packs will help. Bed rest is good but only for the first 48 hours. Try some of the stretching exercises mentioned above and be sure to getstyle=”font-size:1.6em;”each day. The advice above is a terrific way to stop period back pain as well.

How Long Before the Pain Goes Away?

This will depend on what the root cause is. Most people will find that, with proper care, their low back pain improves within 4 weeks.
A family of four having a group photo in front of a car.

Unfortunately, unless you have followed your chiropractor’s advice, chances are your pain will return.

We hope you found this information helpful. If you did, please feel free to share this article with others.

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