How To Reduce The Stress of Chronic Back Pain

There is no question that chronic back pain causes stress. And this stress, in turn, can magnify your pain. To minimize and control the effect of the stress-pain cycle, try some of the following stress-reducing chronic back pain treatments suggested by US survey participants;

How To Relieve Chronic Back Pain

Do deep breathing exercises for a few minutes each hour – is good for both upper and lower back pain relief. Inhale through your nose for 6 seconds; hold your breath for 1 second; exhale through your mouth for 7 seconds. Keep your eyes closed, and expect to feel more relaxed each time you exhale.

reduce chronic back painVisualize a state of relaxation and well-being. Once or twice a day, when you know you’re not going to be interrupted (many survey participants suggest that you unplug your phone or take it off the hook), try to give yourself a vacation from pain. Concentrate on the thought that the pain is diminishing and leaving your body – believe it or not this really can help to relieve back pain. Start with your forehead and facial muscles. Tighten them. Then let them relax completely. Using this same procedure, work your way down, relaxing your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, pelvic area, legs and feet.

Now work on your back. Picture it relaxing, starting from the shoulder blades and working down. As an aid, some survey participants visualized a ray of sunlight touching each area that they wanted to relax. Others imagined a silky fabric or soft breeze helping each area to unwind and become pain-free.

transcendental meditationOne pretty effective method of how to treat chronic back pain is to meditate, letting your mind go blank until you’re unaware of pain or any thought or feeling. Something that works for me personally to relieve back pain is to laugh. Find something to make you laugh or smile. Read a funny book, watch a comedy on TV, rent a DVD or two, and watch films that take your mind off your troubles and put you in an upbeat mood. Listen to music that relaxes you – back pain relief can be found simply by relaxing fully for at least 30 minutes a day..

Believe that your pain is easing and that you are on the road to recovery.

Must I Adjust My Diet while I’m Recuperating?

According to US survey participants, the biggest risk you face from poor eating habits while inactive is constipation. Just being less active can, and often does, cause constipation, which in turn makes some people’s back pain considerably worse.

To help avoid constipation, you need to drink plenty of water, and make sure you get enough fiber and roughage by eating a variety of wholegrain foods, raw fruit and raw vegetables.

healthy dietWhat you eat and how much you eat affects your weight, and many back specialists believe that excess weight can sometimes contribute to low back pain. According to survey participants, however, weight is often not a critical factor in severe upper or lower back pain.

Of the eighteen people in the US survey who dieted as part of their total program of back care, none felt that weight loss was nearly as important in reducing chronic back pain as other aspects like chronic back pain exercises. Obviously, to be grossly overweight is to beg for a variety of medical problems. But weight loss alone is probably not a major factor in alleviating back pain.

When Can I Start to Exercise and What Chronic Back Pain Exercises Should I Do?

lower back pain exerciseAs soon as your contracted muscles have eased enough for you to move around in bed and be up and about for even a few minutes, you can try some of the pre-exercise ‘positions’ that survey participants found especially useful. They are small but meaningful steps that you can take even before your pain has lessened enough to allow you to exercise. In a week or two, when you have mastered these positions, you will be ready to attempt some more lower back pain exercises for lower back pain relief.

Position 1: Basic exercise position

From the fetal position, with both knees bent, simply roll onto your back. Position your feet flat on the mattress, with your heels about 15 – 45 cm (6 – 18 inches) from your buttocks. If you have been in severe pain, and the muscles and ligaments in your lower back have contracted, holding this position for a few minutes will set the stage for correcting the exaggerated ‘S’ curve in your lower back, called swayback or lordosis, that contributes to back pain.

Keep your arms at your sides when you’re in this position. But, for just a moment, to appreciate your ultimate goal, slip one hand, palm down, between the small of your back and your mattress. Then do it again after you’ve been in this position for a few minutes. The curve in your lower back should now be a little flatter just from the pull of gravity and it will start to relieve back pain.

If you can lie in this position comfortably for 5 minutes, try position 2 later in the day or the next morning.

Position 2 to relieve back muscle pain – basic position with pelvic lift

Assume Position 1, but this time use a towel under your buttocks to raise your pelvis slightly, thereby flattening your lumbar curve a bit more.

Fold a bath towel once and slide 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the folded towel under the edge of your buttocks, at the point where they join your thighs. Do this for 2 minutes, once in the morning and once in the evening. If the position doesn’t cause you discomfort, add 1 minute more each time, until you reach 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.

At this point you can drop position 1. You may discover, though, that even after you are recovered and exercising regularly, position 2 will still be useful, easing your chronic back pain and helping to relax your back when it’s tired.

Exercises for low back pain – basic position with knees clasped

When you can maintain Position 2 for 10 minutes twice a day, you might find, as many survey participants did, that your lower back pain starts to ease, and that it is useful to increase the amount of stretching you get from this position. Immediately after completing Position 2, keeping the towel under you, bring one knee up towards your chest and hold it in place with your hand. Now bring the other knee up. Clasp your hands just below both kneecaps. Gently, very gently, pull your knees towards your chest just a few inches. Hold for a count of six. Return to the Basic Position. Repeat these steps six rimes.

The slight amount of stretching involved here might be considered ‘exercising’ but so long as it brings some lower back pain relief the real point is simply to relax in a comfortably flexed position, not to try to draw your knees towards your chest as much as you can.

Position 4: Basic position with legs supported

This position is a slightly more difficult alternative to both Positions 2 and 3, primarily because you have to get up from and down to the floor. But because your legs will be supported, you might find it more relaxing and pain-reducing. If so, substitute it for Positions 2 and 3, and do it twice every day – more often if it makes you feel better.

Begin by lying in the Basic Position on a carpeted floor (or on a gym mat or two folded blankets) with your feet in front of a sofa or a chair. Support your neck with a folded towel, or support your head and neck with a small pillow. Put both legs, one at a time, on the chair seat or sofa. Your feet and calves – but not your thighs – should rest on the elevated surface. If you’re using a chair with a hard seat, you will feel more comfortable with a towel or blanket on the seat.

How Do I Gradually Get More Active?

Try the following suggestions:

Walk your way out of pain. As you recuperate, walk as much as you can. Sitting puts much more strain on your back than standing. It slows rather than hastens your recovery. Walk on level ground. When you venture outside the first few times, avoid steep gradients and uneven terrain. Walking up or down hills causes a noticeably greater strain on low back muscles. And uneven ground – like rocky or gravelly areas or beaches – tends to jar your back and make it difficult to relax and stride comfortably. These are best tackled when your back pain has eased.

Stand with your weight unevenly distributed. Most people with low back pain are much more comfortable if they shift their weight from one foot to the other when they have to stand for any length of time, for good reason: when you shift most of your weight to one leg, and bend that leg slightly at the knee, you lessen your lumbar curve. But don’t favor one leg for more than a few minutes at a time. Shift back and forth as your comfort level dictates. If possible, use a footstool, a book, your child’s stuffed animal or anything else that’s lying around to prop up your foot. This further reduces your lumbar curve. Again, don’t favor one leg; switch back and forth.

Also, wear a pair of well-made shoes. Don’t pad around in old slippers, clogs or run-down trainers. Your footwear should have at least a 2.5 cm (1 inch) heel and contain a cushioned heel and arch support. (Virtually all good shoes have these features; running shoes are also acceptable.)

Once I’m on the Road to Recovery, How Can I Maintain Good Posture?

Keep three things tucked in – your abdomen, bottom and chin – and the rest of your body will tend to line up properly – certainly good tips for back pain relief.

good postureThe more your bottom juts out, the greater your lumbar curve and back pain. Tucking in your chin is important, because it helps you to maintain a proper cervical (neck) curve. Position your chin too high, or let it droop too low, and you’ll add to the strain on your neck and the rest of your spine. The importance of good posture cannot be emphasized enough. US survey participants mentioned it more than any other factor as a way to speed up recovery from acute episodes of low back pain. It gets instant results, costs nothing to learn, and will do more for you than most professional treatments.

One UK respondent said: ‘sucking in the stomach and walking tall, without raising shoulders, I find helps relieve back pain.’ Face what you want to see. While lying, standing or sitting, turn your entire body, not just your head, towards anyone or anything you’re looking at. Otherwise, the top part of your spine (your neck) will be going one way, and the lower part another way, which may increase spasming.

How Can I Avoid Re-injuring My Back?

Adopt easy-on-the-back dressing habits. Low back pain sufferers re-injure their backs more from reaching the wrong way to put their shoes on than from lifting heavy objects. With this in mind, survey participants recovering from acute, severe low back pain recommended the following:

Keep your next day’s clothing – including your shoes – within reach of your bed. This way, you can start your day with relaxation and pre-exercise positions, not a hunt for what to wear. You can also give your back a break when you get dressed.

If you are still very tight and prone to spasming, put on waist-to-feet clothing – underwear, socks, skirts, trousers – while lying on your back in bed. You can even put your shoes on this way, using an old towel to keep your sheets clean.

If you feel comfortable enough to sit while putting on your socks and shoes, bring your feet to you, while keeping your back as straight as possible. Minimize bending from the waist to put on footwear. If need be, support the weight of your legs by propping your feet on a chair.

Keep your hands close to yourself. Don’t reach out to pick up objects or perform an activity, no matter how light the object or easy the activity. For example, don’t extend your arm fully to pick up a child’s toy, water a plant, or answer the phone. Sidle right up to objects; the closer your arms are to your sides, and not to what you’re reaching for, the better for your back. If you can’t avoid reaching – to turn on a tap, for example – turn to one side. It’s easier to bend sideways than forwards.

Also, until your back has recovered, don’t reach above your head for objects. If no one can help you, use a stepladder. Reaching for high objects arches your back – and that can cause trouble.

Once you’re getting around comfortably again, considering finding and joining a local chronic back pain support group. Social activity helps lift your mood and put you in a better attitude and disposition to continue dealing with your chronic back pain.