Low back pain affects up to 80% of Canadians at some point in their lives, says Bone and Joint Canada. It’s also the most common health problem among older adults that results in pain and disability, according to Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders.
Low back pain is more common among people who are sedentary than those who make moderate physical activity a daily habit, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Weak back and abdominal muscles, resulting from a physically inactive lifestyle, may not properly support the spine and increase the risk of pain.
Spine needs movement
New guidelines from both the Lancet and the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommend exercise and a range of other non-drug options as the first line of treatment for improving lower back pain. If these methods don’t help, patients can consider NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or MRIs, is only recommended if the doctor suspects a specific condition that may be causing lower back pain, says the Lancet.
Here are tips to help keep your back healthy and ease lower back pain:
1. Stay active. Do regular low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking or swimming, that don’t strain or jolt your back, advises HealthLinkBC.
2. Gently stretch and strengthen. Talk to your doctor or a physiotherapist about choosing some specific exercises recommended by Alberta Health Services to reduce lower back pain.
3. Try tai chi or yoga. Nearly 90% of 3,500 people who used tai chi or yoga to ease back pain found it helpful, according to Consumer Reports. Tai chi strengthens muscles in the abdomen and pelvic area that support the lower back and improves posture, says the Veteran’s Health Administration.
4. Consider massage therapy. Massage can help relax muscles, boost circulation and ease soft tissue pain, suggests HealthLinkBC.
5. Practice good posture. Keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line when you sit, stand and walk, advises HealthLinkBC.
6. Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying too much weight strains back muscles. Losing extra weight can prevent or help ease back pain, says Mayo Clinic.
7. Sleep on your side. To reduce pressure on your back, sleep on your side with your knees bent and use a firm mattress, says The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).
8. Lift smart. Avoid lifting heavy objects. Lift a light object by bending your hips and knees, and keeping your back straight, advises the CFPC.