According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, $50 billion are spent each year by Americans trying to combat their low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor of workplace absenteeism. Almost everyone experiences low back pain occasionally, but it is most common for those between the ages of 30 and 50, either because of injury, certain conditions like sciatica, spinal stenosis, spinal degeneration, osteoporosis or other issues. It can also be the result of a sedentary lifestyle.
Fortunately, whatever the cause of your back pain, there are some effective options for reducing or even eliminating it.
A study conducted by the nonprofit Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Wash. found that a weekly massage reduced back pain better than a combination of medication and exercise. The positive effects of a 10-week treatment were said to last for six months.
Both relaxation massage which involves maneuvers that help relax muscles and structural massage which aims to release tension in specific tissues and joints were equally effective. Massage can help increase blood flow and circulation, bringing nutrition to muscles and tissues to aid in the recovery of soft tissue injury or muscle soreness. It also increases endorphin levels, often referred to as feel good hormones that are known to decrease pain and even quicken recovery, according to Spine-health.com.
Studies have found that those with short-term low back pain who are sedentary experience more pain and have a more difficult time performing daily tasks than those who are active. While you might want to stay in bed, activity is almost always the best medicine. Walking and other gentle activities that get the body in an upright position are best.
Performing certain stretches, such as the knee-to-chest stretch can help provide relief for back pain. This stretch is performed by lying on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use both of your hands to pull one knee up and press it to your chest, hold for 15-30 seconds and then return to the original position and repeat with your opposite leg. Perform the stretch two to three times, ideally once in the morning and again at night.
An app with a variety of stretches designed for pain relief, Lower Body Pain Relief Stretches by StretchAwayMusclePain, features a number of effective stretches that can help loosen tight muscles that may be causing pain. Available on iTunes for $3.99, the exercises were designed by a registered physical therapist. They are known to help regain mobility, decrease stress placed on the joints, reduce or eliminate muscle pain and improve posture.
Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery
If you have chronic back pain and have been unable to find relief, open back surgery is not the only option. Advances in surgical techniques and equipment have led to minimally invasive surgery options that include smaller incisions and a limited amount of disruption to soft tissue beneath the skin. This means that there is not only a faster recovery period, but also less post-operative pain.
Sites like lsinewsroom.com feature a range of research articles to help you educate yourself. Laser Spine Institute also offers up real patient experiences that can help you make a decision as to whether or not minimally invasive surgery may be a good option for relieving your back pain.