I’m going to be practical and share what I do for back pain. I personally do not like to take drugs, if I can avoid it. On the other hand, I do take medications if I’m in a lot of pain, because I know that if you just “grin and bear” severe pain, your body ends up compensating, which can cause more problems. So it’s kind of a toss up. Last week, when I was having extreme back pain, I did take some ibuprofen.
What I greatly prefer to do for back pain is exercise. (Remember, I’m not a doctor; only sharing my own experiences, so follow my example at your own risk.) Part of the reason I went ahead and took ibuprofen last week is because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t exercise. It literally took me 5 minutes to walk to the bathroom … and I took my phone with me in case I fell. Wow, it made me feel like a very old person! My kids are gone for the summer and I was alone, which was also scary. (I used this to remind myself to pray for all the seniors I know … especially those who live alone.)
When I was finally able to exercise a little, I did a few simple yoga moves. I did these on my bed (not the best idea, but I couldn’t get onto the floor). I’m going to list the ones I found most helpful, along with a link, so you can see how they are done.
Cat and cow: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/yoga-cat-cow-pose This pose offers a gentle stretch to the back, and also strengthens the back muscles. Read the instructions carefully, look at all 3 diagrams, and remember to breath. Breathing is an important part of yoga, both to help with the stretching itself and also to bring relaxation — which is important, not only to healing, but also to preventing injury. If you’re stiff and tense, you’re more likely to injure yourself further. Breathing is also important during exercise because you want to get oxygen to your muscles. Try to move from the cat to the cow and back again smoothly, not with jerky motions. Try to move from each of these poses to the next as smoothly as possible. That will help you keep from injuring yourself, and it also promotes control and balance.
Cobra: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/471 If it’s too hard for you to stretch this far, try putting your hands even with your shoulders (which may actually be a different pose with a different name). This pose is wonderful for stretching the back, and again, for strengthening the back muscles. It also strengthens your abdominal muscles … and my understanding is that anything that strengthens your tummy will help support your back.
Child pose: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-do-the-childs-pose-in-yoga.html This one is actually hard for me to do because of my knees. I think I probably have my rear more in the air — always nice that I’m doing this by myself — but it still serves to stretch my back. Don’t force it. If it’s hard to get all the way down, make sure you’re breathing deeply (as you should be for all these poses) and stretch a little farther each time you exhale.
When my back started feeling good enough to do these on the floor, I added downward dog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbJaj0Aqw5k I went from cat and cow, into downward dog, and then the cobra, then child. Again, nice stretch for the back, rear, and also for the legs. Remember to breathe!
Having said all this, if you have back pain, the very, very, very best exercise system, in my humble opinion, is the YMCA’s course, Y’s Way to a Healthy Back. When I worked at the YMCA, we had quite a few people whose doctors prescribed this program. I took this in my 20s. I was not experiencing back pain then, but my father was, so I took it to be supportive of him. I was pregnant at the time and the exercises were gentle enough for me, with the exception of the crunches. Since then, I’ve bought their book with the exercises, to use as review. http://www.amazon.com/The-Ys-Way-Healthy-Back/dp/0832902527 I added these to the yoga poses above, and they definitely helped me get over my pain.
An exercise routine that I find to be very helpful in preventing back pain (I hadn’t been doing this for quite a few months when my back pain came on) is (don’t laugh) a belly dance warm up. (If you know me, that’s quite a visual — again, I do these in the privacy of my home, when no one is watching.) My favorite is the Goddess Workout. http://www.amazon.com/Goddess-Workout-Bellydance-Fitness-Dolphina/dp/B0002C4IT0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1370483125&sr=8-2&keywords=goddess+workout+dvd The intro warm-up is not at all difficult and it works practically every joint in your body.
Of course, the main thing I’m doing to help prevent back pain in the future is lose weight. I carry most of my weight in my tummy … and just as strengthening your abdominal muscles will help support your back, just imagine what a big tummy does to pull it out of alignment. So, in that regard, just about any exercise I do for weight loss (as long as it’s not hard on my back) is going to eventually help my back.
And then, along the line of what I was saying before about breathing, relaxation is also important for avoiding or healing back pain. One of my favorite ways to bring myself relaxation is by using these Christian Scripture-based guided meditations. http://www.mindfulworship.com/category/free-guided-meditations/
So that’s it. That’s what I do to heal and/or prevent back pain. What are some of the things you do?