I know lower back pain and I’m here to help you beat it. You know how they say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’? Well, it was a lower back pain (the quadratus lumborum muscle) that inspired me to invent the Body Track. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sit in a chair and had trouble just walking and I was like this for months. My invention completely healed my back pain in 10 days, but I know lower back pain relief comes in all shapes and sizes and there are many effective options for lower back pain treatment to talk about. We’ll look at the best here.
Low back pain is an epidemic. Almost all of us – statistics suggest up to 80% – will experience back pain at some point in our lives, and for many of us this experience will be relived over and over because a large portion of back pain, particularly lower back pain, becomes chronic. To add insult to injury, lower back pain interferes with movement and mobility as much as it does resting, sitting and lying down.
In a study reported by the NCBI, lower back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States.
It is estimated that 70% to 80% of American adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the leading symptom prompting visits to orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, and the second leading symptom prompting visits to primary care physicians. Those patients who develop chronic low back pain are likely to make repeated visits to various health care providers.
And, the study goes on to report that patients make those repeated visits to their doctor for back pain, not because previous treatment worked, but because it failed. So, we have a painful and disabling epidemic with millions of people in pain and no relief in sight. For me, the only lower back pain treatment I needed was terribly simple — getting massage balls in just the right place for the right amount of time. But we’ll look at some more complicated and expensive solutions too.
What’s aching our backs?
The obvious question after learning these startling stats is, ‘why?’ Why do we have so much back pain and so much chronic back pain? And, why are we so unsuccessful with standard lower back pain treatment?
Before researching this answer, here’s my hunch: it has to do with poor posture. We have pervasively poor posture and movement mechanics, and so even if we’re fit, active and/or athletic, we can still experience the aches, pains, fatigue and injuries that originate from poor posture, such as chronic low back pain.
Harvard Medical School agrees about the posture theory.
“Most of us get back pain at some point in our lives. It may be due to a sports-related injury, an accident, or a congenital condition such as scoliosis. Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to prevent this sort of problem. General physical fitness and a healthy weight are important. But one surprisingly simple strategy can go a long way: paying attention to your posture.”
Fitness Magazine sees the posture factor from another position. “Even exercise, which a majority of experts agree is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy back and chase away aches and pains, can be problematic. “When you’re sedentary, the muscles supporting the spine get weaker, and you’re more prone to injury,” Dr. Katz says. But “exercising with improper form — rounding the back when doing dead lifts or arching it during ab work — can place unwanted stress on the spine,” notes Robyn Stuhr, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.
And, if our body isn’t strong, fit and flexible, our experience of back pain worsens. So, what does research conclude about why we have so much back pain?
Spine Universe agrees with me that posture and movement mechanics are the central issues with chronic back pain, adding stress management to the list.
Secret Service Muscles
Muscles are tough and support, allow movement and protect the body from injury in much the same way the Secret Service protects the commander-in-chief’s movements. Back muscles have double-duty when it comes to protection because they protect the spine which houses the nervous system. Like the president, the central nervous system exercises ‘supreme operational command’ over the entire body, so its rank is high when it come to duty. And, the back muscles take their jobs as seriously as the Secret Service agents; they realize the importance of their work and don’t like being messed with.
Anatomically, the brilliance of the back is unparalleled. The design of strong bones perfectly supporting elastic tendons, ligaments, and the whole team of muscles, not just the hot shots in the back, create this magnificient structure! Intricately woven throughout all this is a network of precisely sensitive nerves and nerve roots that communicate directly with the West Wing: the brain.
BUT, your back was not designed to sit in a chair for hours at a time, nor for you to be hunched over looking down at your cell phone or tablet for hours every day. If we insist on living this way, we’ll be forced into spending lots of time and effort (as I have) on lower back pain treatment.
Common conditions of the back
Strain or spasm
The most common cause of low back pain is a torn or pulled muscle and/or ligament, which can be caused by a number of factors, including mechanical stress and strain, a veiled term that includes causes from overweight, poor posture and inactivity. Why are they veiled? Because medicine has to name them, but it’s up to each individual to control these factors. Other causes include heavy lifting (proper lifting posture is critical for all backs, happy or unhappy), twisting and lifting – a big no-no, and often just the right sudden movement will pull a muscle, literally, out of joint.
Treatment for most strains and spasms includes ice, rest, simple stretching exercises and gentle myofascial release.
Pro Tip: Keep abdominal muscles tucked against the abdominal wall, as much as possible. This is the same muscle movement as when we are ‘sucking in our gut’ or holding our stomach in. This provides additional support to the strained or spasming lumbar muscles. Think of it like neighbors on either side of a fence; each neighbor has to do their part to keep the fence in shape. The lumbar muscles and abdominal muscles work together to keep the spine in good shape.
Bulging, herniated or a ruptured disc can be present with or without pain, in some cases. However, the range of pain usually isn’t extreme. Treatments generally include heat and physical therapy, and in some cases ultrasound, pain relief medications or surgery.
This condition can also be present with or without accompanying pain. The abnormal curve of the spine puts additional stresses on the muscles in the back so physical therapies and proper exercise are essential in treating this chronic condition.
Treatment is typically limited to managing symptoms, and can include physical therapy, myofascial release, exercise and stretching. Hanging from a pull-up bar or use of an inversion table can relieve tension and compression along the spine.
One more very common condition whose pain spectrum runs between mild, moderate and severe. Over 50 million people of all ages have one of a hundred forms of arthritis. The basics of arthritis is joint inflammation, but the conditions and related conditions can be complicated and even serious, in rare cases.
Osteoarthritis, one of the more common forms of arthritis, can centralize in the low back, causing stiffness, limited mobility and pain.
Arthritis is treated by managing symptoms with myofascial release, appropriate exercises, physical therapy and sometimes medications or supplements to reduce inflammation and/or pain and stiffness.
This condition causes weak, brittle and easy-to-break bones. The bones are literally porous. Strong muscles and good posture are allies for managing the symptoms associated with osteoporosis.
As with some conditions, treatment will manage symptoms, but will not cure the condition. Some treatments for osteoporosis include weightlifting / strengthening exercises, a healthy diet to support bone care and supplements / medications.
Back to basics
Until recently, lower back pain treatment focused on the pain only. Prescription painkillers is a thesis-sized topic, but it’s the reason for the failure of clinical treatment of low back pain. Treating symptoms, such as pain, without addressing the cause of these symptoms is insufficient therapy and leads to chronic conditions, which is precisely what we see with lower back pain.
There’s both good and great news about this failure. For the most part, lower back pain treatment can be done successfully by the individual through better recovery from injury, improved posture, healthy weight, appropriate exercise, and regular myofascial release. This is the good news.
The great news is that massage balls step right up to home plate for a grand slam treatment plan, not just for lower back pain relief, but for happy backs, including middle and upper backs too.
Lower Back Pain Treatment
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m no fan of surgery and think it should be the absolute last resort when dealing with chronic pain. It’s not only costly but is usually not necessary and sometimes makes things worse. One form of therapy that is gaining popularity uses weak electrical signals to help treat nerve and muscle injuries. Microcurrent therapy has proven to be a safe, FDA-approved treatment method with no notable adverse effects.
Microcurrent works best in conjunction with massage and manual physical therapy and helps not only injured tissue to heal faster, but also helps to ‘restore your electromagnetic field back to normal, thus allowing your injured cells to repair themselves. This leads to healing and prevention of re-injury.’ The Denas VERTEBRA V2 (pictured to the right) is a Russian microcurrent device that I use myself for it’s general health benefits.
It should not be confused with a TENS unit that is a completely different device. Although I don’t personally use it for lower back relief, I know many people do use it primarily as a lower back pain treatment device because it works well for it. It is pricey, so we’re going to look at less expensive lower back pain treatment options next.
Physical therapists, personal trainers and chiropractors would unanimously agree that the best prevention for low back pain is proper posture, exercise, and weight management. Robin McKenzie, a world-renowned physical therapist, first published his best selling book “Treat Your Own Back” in 1980 and has helped thousands find lower back pain relief. In his book, he presents more than 80 pages of education and clinically-proven exercises designed for lower back pain relief and prevention.
The Egoscue method is another popular protocol:
That covers strengthening and stretching, now here’s my personal favorite lower back pain treatment method.
Regular myofascial release is my first choice for chronic low back pain because it’s relaxing and works quickly. Our massage balls are the perfect solution for preventing and relieving lower back pain. I never leave home without them because travel often delivers the worst abuse to my back.
And, even if our jobs force us to be sedentary, we can still manage to keep our backs happy through good posture habits. Not everyone can manage this but I stand while I work, and more people are doing so every year as they discover they get lower back pain relief with this simple change.
The Mayo Clinic states: “Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes. If prevention fails, simple home treatment and proper body mechanics often will heal your back within a few weeks and keep it functional for the long haul.”
Another fortunate fact, we have your back here at Deep Recovery! Here’s how I got lower back pain relief when I was desperate:
Please, let us know in the comments what lower back pain treatment you’ve tried and what has given you the most effective lower back pain relief.