What you need to know about your low back pain

When you have lower back pain, it is understandable that you feel helpless. An acute attack can leave you immobilized for days or even weeks, wondering if you’ll ever feel better again.

Having multiple herniated discs in my back, I understand that feeling. But as someone who has cured my own low back pain and now leads an active, pain-free lifestyle, I set out to empower people with the information and resources needed to recover and live pain-free too. That’s why I’m sharing this four-part series.

Working in professional sports as a mobility coach, it is part of my job to create treatment and prevention protocols for back pain. As such, my advice in this series of articles is based not only on medical research and my own back pain journey, but also on my work experience helping hundreds of professional athletes overcome and prevent low back pain over the past two years. decades.

In this first article, I help you gain a better understanding of your own personal experience with back pain, why proactive techniques are more effective than passive approaches, and how you can begin to find relief now and forge a path to preventing back pain. pain in the future. In the second article, we discuss exercises for lasting relief and strength rebuilding, while the third article focuses on soothing sciatica. In the last installment, I help you create your own back pain prevention plan.

If you’re ready to get out of the pain and stay out of it, join me for this series.

Understanding your pain as your experience

Back pain is a very personal problem with myriad causes and presentations that affect your recovery and prevention strategies.

These are the pain relief tips I've been seeking for 21 years
The good news is that most cases of back pain aren’t caused by serious conditions like fractures or cancer, and 90% get better without surgery, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. I have included a list of common causes below. Consider which ones may be related to your lifestyle and could be contributing to your pain.

Poor breathing mechanics and posture.

Because your ribcage is attached to your spine and your main respiratory muscle, your diaphragm, is attached to your lumbar spine, the way you breathe influences your spinal position, overall posture, and consequently your body posture. Back pain.

hip strain

Your lower back is designed to be more stable than mobile, so when our hips are tight and lack rotation, trying to compensate with your lower back during twisting movements can lead to disc and muscle injury.

physical trauma

A “broken back” with vertebral fractures is rare, but can occur due to significant trauma from things like a bad fall or car accident. Generally, these incidents result in hernias and/or muscle injuries, rather than fractures.

age-related degeneration

Back pain is not a normal part of aging. However, after the age of 30, as bone density and muscle mass begin to decline, so does spinal disc health, so lower back problems can develop, especially if you don’t exercise regularly.

sedentary lifestyle

If you live with chronic aches and pains, this activity may provide relief.

As mentioned above, regular exercise is key to the health of our muscles and bones. Our bodies are designed for movement, so being sedentary creates stiff, weakened muscles and decreased joint lubrication, including dehydration of spinal discs, all of which can lead to lower back pain.

Excess weight or pregnancy

Extra weight in the abdominal area increases the risk of low back pain by putting extra pressure on the spine, which can lead to muscle strain, pinched nerves, and herniated discs.


When you’re chronically stressed, your body’s stress response contributes to back pain by creating muscle tension and increased sensitivity to pain.

Low back pain is usually classified according to its duration as acute, chronic or subacute:

• Acute lasts less than four weeks.

• Chronic is more than 12 weeks, even if it is intermittent.

• Subacute is between four and 12 weeks.

Having an understanding of the potential cause(s) of your pain and its classification will allow for more effective discussions with your doctor and other healthcare professionals.

Looking for safe and effective relief

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Increasingly, research supports that movement is the key to healing and prevention. A 2016 meta-analysis published in JAMA, covering treatment methods for more than 30,000 patients, found that proactive use of exercise showed greater back pain relief and reduced risk compared to commonly prescribed passive methods, such as medications, support belts, braces, and bed rest. And combining education with exercise reduced the risk of back pain recurrence by an additional 10% compared to exercise alone.

When your back pain first starts or if you’ve had chronic pain that’s gotten worse, it may hurt just to think about exercising. Don’t worry. In future articles in the series, I’ll share safe exercises to help you relieve your particular type of low back pain. For now, here are two accessible, science-backed techniques that you can easily use to get some relief, as neither is contraindicated for any condition.

mindfulness meditation

Meditative deep breathing reduces the intensity of pain, according to research.
Numerous studies have shown mindfulness meditation to be effective in relieving low back pain, particularly a chronic condition. A recent meta-analysis published in the journal Pain Medicine found that meditation provides a safe and effective method of managing back pain by reducing pain intensity and improving quality of life more than non-meditative therapies.

Breathing exercises

Practicing proper diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of all my back pain prevention and treatment programs in professional sports. That’s because deep breathing not only helps reposition your rib cage and pelvis to relieve pressure from your spine, but it also calms your stress response by activating the “rest and restore” parasympathetic aspect of your nervous system. which facilitates recovery. To reduce tension, try this simple 5-7-3 breathing exercise to get started.

Additional pain relief options include massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. Check with your doctor before trying these treatments to make sure they are not contraindicated for your condition.

How a 'micro-practice' can relieve stress and help you sleep

When you see your doctor, be sure to share your personal experience and thoughts about possible causes of your pain, as well as your lifestyle goals after your pain is gone. Listen carefully, take notes, and ask questions as an active participant in your plan of care. For example, if your doctor orders an imaging scan, such as an MRI or CT scan, don’t be afraid to ask what they’re looking for. Once your doctor provides a diagnosis, ask why your condition indicates that diagnosis and what the prognosis is. If your doctor recommends extreme measures, such as only bed rest or surgery, ask them to explain why they think it’s the best approach and get a second opinion.

Finally, if your doctor prescribes an opioid pain reliever, ask if there are non-narcotic alternatives and, if prescribed, request that any refills require authorization. Beginning in 2017, the American College of Physicians established new guidelines, urging physicians to favor movement-based treatments and exhaust all other treatment options before prescribing opioid medications for nonradicular low back pain.

Forge a proactive path to recovery and prevention

As you work toward recovery, remember that words and thoughts have power. Too often, when someone experiences an acute attack of low back pain, they describe it as if their back “popped out.” This type of negative, passive phrasing conveys a lack of understanding and responsibility that can impede healing. That’s why it’s important to have the right information and resources to be positive and proactive.

Our bodies are incredible vehicles that we have been blessed with to navigate our lives. We have an obligation to take care of them, and the only way we can do that effectively is by educating ourselves, using the resources of healthcare professionals, and taking action. By reading this article, you have already started on a proactive path. Look for the next article in the series to guide you in determining the best exercises to create lasting relief.

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