7 easy ways to relieve lower back pain

Muscle and Joint


Owen Wiseman
@AVogel_ca


10 September 2020

How many Canadians currently work from home and why is this so important to highlight?

An article by an economic reporter from The Globe and Mail estimated that nearly five million more Canadians, on top of those already based from a home office, were working at home during the height of the global pandemic. As mentioned, the danger is the sedentary habits we might develop at home, combined with our oh-so-easy access to the all-you-can-eat buffet known as the refrigerator.

This combination can also result in a 9-fold increase in the risk of developing high blood pressure, a 3-fold increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and double the risk of developing high cholesterol.

I can imagine that some other symptoms could accompany low back pain, mind sharing some?

This is a tricky question to answer without the context of the cause or etiology of the back pain, which we'll talk about below. Symptoms associated with back pain could include a shooting sensation that radiates down the leg accompanied by a sense of pressure, weakness, or even pins and needles.

Those suffering from lumbago often report how much worse it becomes with motions such as bending or lifting, even everyday motions like standing or walking may contribute to worsening pain.

A sense of restlessness as you try and find a comfortable position during the night may also lead to insomnia, a whole other issue in and of itself.

What are some other causes?

To differentiate the causes of low back pain, typically in the lumbar region, your naturopathic doctor or other trained primary care provider may perform a series of orthopedic tests to differentiate between conditions. Some of these may include Lasègue's (straight leg raise) or Fajersztahn's (well leg raise) test which would better define the location of a potential disc herniation.

Scoliosis, unstable spinal segments, strains and sprains of local tendons and ligaments or muscle tightness/weakness can all contribute to back pain.

These are some of our favourite tips to alleviate your pain:

  1. Hot and cold compress. Depending on how long the back pain has been occurring, the use of a hot compress (if chronic) can help dilate local blood vessels and bring nutrient rich blood to the tissue. Once the nutrient rich blood has circulated through the tissue, applying a cold compress will constrict the vessels, helping to control inflammation and directing waste products and toxins out of the tissue.
  2. Yoga. The very purpose of therapeutic movement like yoga is to improve mobility and stretch out those muscles and ligaments. A systematic review from 2016 of all the relevant literature to date demonstrated that practicing yoga had the potential to reduce pain and disability, not to mention the mental health and cognitive benefits.
  3. Joint pain relief. The primary ingredient is Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) which is rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant hapagosides. These agents are known to be safe and also serve to benefit not just the joints of the low back, but those of the wrist, ankle and others. This extract is so potent in fact that strong evidence supports that it is as effective as 12.5mg of rofecoxib. This is an important trial because rofecoxib is known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, but could increase your risk of having a heart attack unlike its safer sibling celecoxib. Therefore, a standardized extract of Devil's Claw could provide the pain relief benefits of a conventional medication and help you avoid increasing your risk of a potentially deadly cardiac event.
  4. Shoes. They can get us places we need to be and provide the protection we need, but how do shoes play a role in back pain? It's probably not surprising to many of you who have attempted a forward fold stretch to feel a tug in the back, legs and feet. Dozens of muscles, ligaments and other tissue connect these areas, and shoes such as those without an arch (i.e. flip flops, flats) can make bunions worse and potentially cause hammertoe. They alter our biomechanics and posture, causing our back muscles to develop inappropriately. Researchers are currently assessing the impacts of unstable shoes on chronic low back pain.
  5. Green-ify your workspace. Consider adding some plants to the workspace as they have been shown to improve the ability to cope with pain and discomfort.
  6. Topical relief. Sometimes that pain is just too much despite your yoga efforts and investing in more houseplants than you probably needed. Some herbal help can be found with Arnica (Arnica montana) which contains sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids that help reduce pain. Products like Absölut Arnica are known for their rich arnica profile, evidenced by the deep yellow colour of the gel matching the original vibrant colour of the plant prior to processing.
  7. Ergonomics. Our posture while we sit or stand has long-lasting impacts on our overall health. Ergonomic training was introduced at a manufacturing company, and over the course of 10 months, employees reported improvements in their low back pain. It's worth talking to your company to see if there's an office budget for more ergonomically friendly furniture that mimics the natural curvature of the spine.

With so many great ideas, we hope we have helped you find relief for your low back pain sooner than later!

References:
https://www.iss.it/documents/20126/2186576/rofecoxib.1103793565.pdf/
https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/10/1/article-p53.xml
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC520753/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494172/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4548155/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4878447/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6465323/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28320978/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29333872/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30271778/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-nearly-five-million-more-canadians-working-from-home-because-of-covid/