A Common Complaint: Lower Back Pain

By my estimation, at least 25% of patients that each of our Acupuncturists see in a day has lower back / hip area pain as either their main reason for coming in for treatment, or as part of their condition. Since so many struggle with this (including some of us!), here are some Lower-Back-Love tips:

  • Keep the area warm: If you have told us you are using ice for pain, you have probably heard us suggest warmth instead. (Unless it is an acute injury, in which case you would want to use ice for 10-20 min max a few times per day for just 1-2 days.) The main idea is to keep blood flowing through and nourishing the tissues, which promotes healing. Warmth keeps the blood flowing, while cold is more constricting of the vessels and causes stagnation of the blood. Blood not moving = Pain. So how to warm things up?
    • Heating pad
    • Warm bath (add Epsom salt to relax the muscles)
    • Dress warmly enough (no crop tops if you have a lumbar ache)
  • Keep it moving: It’s a good idea to take a break from strenuous workouts and heavy lifting, but don’t go completely sedentary unless you absolutely must. Remember, blood needs to circulate in order to nourish the muscles, joints, organs, and tissues, to keep them working well. Walking, Qi gong / Tai chi, Swimming, and (gentle) Yoga encourage the blood to move freely and not stagnate.
  • Stretching: If you sit a lot during the day, it’s time to make a routine for getting up and moving around. Taking a short walkabout every 45 mins is a good goal. There are also great stretches for the low back that can encourage more blood flow to the area. See image below for several stretches to do at home.
  • Anti-Inflammatory nutrition: It can really make a difference what we eat, and sometimes we just need that reminder. Inflammation is a normal protective response to an acute condition, but it then that response needs to be turned off because it raises stress hormones and damages tissues. Inflammation is the basis for chronic diseases including arthritis, heart disease, and hypertension. Things to avoid for inflammation include alcohol, fried foods, sugar, red meat, and any foods you know you have a sensitivity to. If you would like a handout from us with a nice long list of recommendations, we have them available in the clinic. Here are a few ideas of anti-inflammatories to incorporate:
    • turmeric (don’t use with NSAIDS)
    • ginger
    • thyme
    • green tea
    • olive oil
    • avocado
    • almonds
    • fish oil 1000mg/day
  • Get Acupuncture: Regular treatments decrease inflammation, improve blood flow and fluid circulation, improve mood, decrease pain, and promote overall well-being. Did you know that we are open 7 days/week!?
  • Get calm: Simply calming the mind and relaxing a bit has an effect on pain on its own. If you can’t get to the clinic, try listening to a guided meditation and see if you can switch out of fight-flight response and more into a low-hum state.

We will leave you with this article from Harvard Health about low back pain and why NSAIDs are proving to not be the winning choice. From the article: “A recent study found that NSAIDs did not work well for back pain. But, new recommendations take that conclusion even further: it may be best to avoid medications altogether — at least at the start.” Read more at THIS LINK.

We hope to see you before the summer ends, to get that Lower Back some Love!

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Low Back Stretches image by Edward Wilmot

Reducing Inflammation notes from Merrily Kuhn, RN, PhD, ND, lecture 2011

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