Low back pain is, unfortunately, a common health struggle — but that doesn’t make it any less challenging.
About one-quarter of adults deal with back pain ranging from occasional to constant. According to the NIH, “In any 3-month period, about 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has at least 1 day of back pain.”
Not only can low back pain prevent someone from moving freely or carrying things around the house, but it can also make virtually anything more difficult, from working and driving to walking and sleeping.
Someone might have lingering low back pain that comes up once in a while, but it hasn’t interfered with daily life to the point where they would reach out for advice. For others, their low back pain quickly takes a turn for the worse. They might reach out for help and wonder if they need pain medication or back surgery.
Here’s the good news: someone with low back pain shouldn’t assume they need pain medication or surgery. Natural methods, either at home or inside a chiropractor’s office, can offer relief. Here are six natural steps that can help low back pain:
1. Sit with a lumbar bolster.
Although misaligned posture isn’t the only source of low back pain, it’s a frequent cause. Taking a look at how you sit and stand is an excellent first step to finding relief.
Whether you’re working at a computer, running errands, or helping your kids with homework, the single easiest step to helping heal low back pain is sitting with a lumbar bolster. A bolster puts you in a proper extended, upright position. For a simple option, put a rolled beach towel behind you.
Why is sitting with a bolster so helpful? Proper positioning is the simplest way to start reducing low back pain. When we’re sitting, most of us tend to slump our shoulders and jut our heads forward. This position misaligns our spine and can lead to low back pain. A lumbar support helps put our hips, back, and neck in the ideal position.
Bolsters certainly aren’t a one-and-done solution, but they can help reduce low back pain without significant lifestyle changes.
2. Keep your ears in line with your shoulders.
When we think of posture, many of us remember our moms giving us seemingly endless advice: “Relax your shoulders. Straighten your spine. Keep your head up. Use your abs to support yourself.”
It’s great advice, especially the part about keeping your head up. Looking down can have a surprisingly large — and invisible — impact on your back. As Dr. Karena Wu of ActiveCare Physical Therapy told NBC News, “For every inch forward you hold your head, the weight carried down through the spine increases by 10 pounds.”
The problem is, all that advice from Mom is a lot to keep track of. There’s one posture tip that encompasses many others: keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Aligning your ears with your shoulders places you in a more upright position. This trick helps whether you’re looking at a computer, eating a meal, driving a car, or taking a walk.
Picture an invisible line reaching from the bottom of your ears to the ground. Draw your head back until the line intersects with the center of your shoulders.
As you do this, your body will automatically move into a more optimal position. Your shoulders will rotate back and relax, your spine will straighten, and your head will tilt up. If you’re standing, your hips will be better aligned. As a bonus, you might notice it’s easier to breathe because your lungs have more room to expand.
3. Position your computer mouse closer to your body.
The average adult uses screens for about 11 hours per day, according to Scripps Health. We’re willing to bet a majority of those hours are spent on desktops or laptops, which involves a lot of time reaching for the mouse. This can cause your shoulders to hunch over.
Place your computer mouse closer to your body to keep yourself from slumping over. This change keeps your arm from extending as far, so it’s easier to sit up straight.
If that doesn’t help, you may have to rearrange your work set-up. Consider getting an ergonomic keyboard tray that attaches to the underside of your desk. A keyboard tray helps your arms rest in a more natural position while you work. This positive change moves down the chain of your body and can potentially ease your low back pain.
Adjusting your posture might help reduce your low back pain right away, or it could take weeks before you notice a difference. It’s worth giving it some time. Experiment with using a bolster, aligning your ears and shoulders, and moving your mouse closer to your body for two weeks, and see how it impacts your health.
4. Eat less sugar to reduce inflammation in your body.
Although sugary treats offer a quick boost, there’s also a not-so-saccharine side to sweets: Sugar increases inflammation in your body, which can wreak havoc on your system. Inflammation can cause muscle and joint pain and immune system issues, along with a whole host of other ailments.
Excess sugar could contribute to your low back pain. The best way to tackle this is by eating less sugar to reduce inflammation. The usual suspects like candy bars, cookies, soda, and desserts are known for being sugary, but eating fewer refined carbs like white bread and pasta can also help.
If you’re unsure of the sugar level in a certain food, check its glycemic index, an indicator of how it affects blood sugar. Avoid high-sugar foods that give you huge blood sugar jumps. Instead, eat more foods with a low glycemic index. According to the University of Sydney, “Low GI [glycemic index] carbohydrates – the ones that produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels – is one of the secrets to long-term health…”
Sometimes people joke about being sugar addicts, but it could be true. Sugar can turn into an addiction. Just like someone who drinks a lot of coffee would slowly wean themselves off caffeine, you’ll want to gradually reduce your sugar intake over several weeks or months rather than eliminating it overnight.
5. Look at your nutrition as a whole.
We’ll cut right to the chase: If your nutrition is poor, it adds stress to your body. Stress can manifest itself in unexpected ways like low back pain. Eating well helps keep your digestive system in balance, which helps your whole body function properly.
Watching your sugar intake is a great place to start. Other high-impact changes are not eating too much fat and not eating too many refined carbohydrates. Those are all nutritional causes of low back pain. Don’t go on a low-fat diet, though — make sure you’re eating a moderate amount of fats.
Eating well might feel like a daunting goal. But, it doesn’t have to be discouraging. Focus on eating unrefined, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. A great place to start is eating calcium-packed green, leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, as well as antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, raspberries, and green and black teas.
6. Get up and move every hour.
The last step encompasses many of the others: get up and move every hour. Set a timer on your phone as a reminder. If you’re drinking enough water — half your weight in ounces of water a day — you’ll get up to go to the bathroom anyway.
Looking for simple ways to stay moving during the day? Take a quick spin to the mailbox, walk up the stairs, or jog in place. You might notice a quick energy boost, too.
Stay active by taking a walk in one of the parks or forest preserves in the Naperville area:
- McDowell Grove (Naperville)
- Seager Park (Naperville)
- Riverwalk Park (Naperville)
- Arrowhead Park (Naperville)
- Springbrook Prairie (Naperville)
- Blackwell (Warrenville)
- Morton Arboretum (Lisle)
If you’ve tried these tips and you’re still not getting relief, our team at Gelband Natural Health & Chiropractic is here to serve you. Get your free 30-minute evaluation for low back pain to assess what could be causing the pain and identify the areas that need work.
Our natural chiropractic approach also helps with neck pain, weight gain, migraines, difficulty sleeping, and many more sources of pain and discomfort.
Book your free evaluation by calling our office at (630) 505-4040 or visiting gelbandhealth.com.