Pain in my lower back - What can I do?
Lower back pain can present itself in various forms (soreness, numbness, spasms, sharp shooting pain) in either the left or right side, or on both sides at once. It is often reported during activities such as running, squats or deadlifts. Both acute and chronic lower back pain can be attributed to many factors; it is important to identify the symptoms and seek professional help ASAP in order to ensure proper injury management.
What causes lower back pain?
- Falls, sprains
- Accidents, blunt trauma
- Symptoms: immobility of affected region, shooting pain, numbness, weakness
- Poor posture (overly slouched/upright)
- Lifestyle habits (prolonged sitting without taking breaks, poor exercise form)
- Illness (infections, systematic conditions eg. arthritis)
- Symptoms: gradual buildup of pain, usually over course of weeks/months
Note: In more serious/severe cases, symptoms may include loss of bladder/bowel control and inability to walk. Please see your doctor immediately.
What can I do to relieve my lower back pain?
A recovery plan should only be administered after properly understanding the cause of pain and the symptoms. Do consult your physiotherapist/doctor if you are unsure.
- Short term solutions (works best for acute/sharp back pain)
- Apply cold compression for short periods (10 mins, 3-4 times daily)
- NSAIDS, painkillers
- Rest: avoid lifting objects, back-bending, and prolonged sitting
- Avoid immobility: perform simple back stretches and core activation exercises
- Long term solutions (usually for chronic back injuries)
- Stretches (lower back and hips)
- Strengthening (core, back and hips)
- Functional assessment by a professional (e.g ensure correct form while performing squats/deadlifts)
How should I sleep with lower back pain?
Sufferers of lower back pain often report a reduced quality of sleep, in turn affecting other aspects of life such as work and leisure. It is important to ensure that good sleep is achieved despite lower back pain. Besides popping painkillers, here are some additional tips:
Stretch before sleeping:
- Stretching the glutes and lower back muscles before going to bed adequately loosens the muscles to allow for movement while asleep. Bonus tip: stretch these same muscles just before getting out of bed in the morning – your muscles are stiff from prolonged immobility after sleeping!
Comfortable sleeping position:
- Side sleepers: Place one cushion behind your back and another in between your legs. This will prevent any twisting in the back
- Flat back sleepers: Place a pillow under your knees. This will take any strain off the lower back and prevent any twisting
How do you know if back pain is muscle or disc-related?
The only accurate way is through imaging measures such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Do visit your doctor, who will first perform a physical examination and request for an MRI should he/she suspect a disc-related injury.
Is walking good for lower back pain?
Yes! Walking is a low-impact exercise that stretches the hip flexors and strengthens the glutes and back muscles. Walking for 150 mins a week (30 mins x 5 days/60 mins x 3 days) is recommended. Regularly walking not only reduces the likelihood of recurrent back pain, but improves overall health.
Note: No (or very minimal) pain should be felt while walking. If pain is severe or worsening, please stop immediately.