Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common physical afflictions, affecting four out of five people over the span of their lifetimes. However, the pervasiveness of LBP means that physical therapists have plenty of experience dealing with it, and they have developed tried-and-true methods that can help you with it.
Correcting posture can take a lot of conscious effort at first, but establishing good habits will go a long way toward fixing your issues throughout the day, whether at the workplace, at home, or traveling through town. Short-term relief can be achieved through a few key changes to your posture, but maintaining those changes is the trick to true comfort. Since most of us spend our workdays sitting, learning proper sitting posture and setting up our workspace properly can be a huge part of the battle. Make sure that your monitor is set at eye-level to reduce and straining of the neck, and keep your head supported by the chair rather than leaning forward. Try to keep your arms and wrist supported by the desk surface as well, keeping your buttocks in s position where it touches the back of the chair. Although a lumbar pillow or roll can help support you and reinforce good habits while at work or in the car, you should take responsibility for maintaining your own posture while sitting so that proper alignment transfers to other parts of the day while standing. If you sit in a chair that adjusts, be sure that you turn your whole body rather than pivoting from the hips. While sleeping, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that a firm mattress can help, and many people who sleep on their side position a pillow between their legs to align the body properly.
Even if it can be tempting to rest constantly, and common medical wisdom used to advocate prolonged rest to cure muscle pains, it is now known that staying reasonably active results in a faster and deeper recovery. Physical therapy, simple home exercises, and alternative therapies and techniques can all provide safe techniques to perform. Crunches or sit-ups can be helpful, but it is actually more beneficial to target the transversus abdominal muscles, which can be achieved more effectively by performing simple breathing exercises such as the stomach vacuum or through planks and other simple exercises. Although discomfort is normal, particularly when first starting or when dealing with extreme lower back issues, you should avoid any exercise that causes actual pain and gradually build to harder exercises at a comfortable pace in order to prevent further injury.
As important as targeting the lower back is, each part of the body works in conjunction with others, so working other muscle groups and increasing joint mobility elsewhere can help relieve the lower back. Most prominently, increasing flexibility and comfort in the hip flexors can help take pressure off the vertebrae of the lumbar region. Try seated butterfly stretches or bridges in order to work up mobility in the hips to take the strain off the lower back. Another overlooked remedy is hamstrings stretches, because while focusing on the legs may seem counterintuitive to back issues, the hamstrings can essentially pull on the muscles of the back if tight or allow free range of movement if stretched and worked properly. Once you regain a comfortable range of motion, yoga can provide a battery of other exercises that target and work the lower back in a low-impact manner and connect different muscle groups together for the best results. Physical therapy can incorporate all of these techniques in a safe, scaffolded method to ensure safety and sure progress, but it is ultimately up to you to incorporate these best practices into your everyday life to ensure long-lasting recovery for your chronic pain.
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