5 Ways to Beat Lower Back Pain
Newswise — Most adults will experience lower back pain
sometime during their lifetime. The good news is you can
usually prevent or reduce the pain yourself.
Lower back pain is something that almost everyone will
experience at some time in their lives. In fact, the
National Institutes of Health estimates that eight out of
ten people will suffer from back pain, making it one of the
most common medical problems today. It affects women and men
equally, and can happen at any age, according to The
Cleveland Clinic’s Arthritis Advisor.
Builders Top, left: Full Back Release Sit in a chair
with your knees shoulder-width apart and feet
resting flat on the floor. Curl your upper body
slowly forward, letting your hands touch the floor.
Hold, then slowly bring yourself up to a sitting
position. Repeat, bending down a little further each
time. Top, right: Press Up Lie on your stomach with
elbows bent so that your hands are resting palm-side
down under your shoulders. Press up by straightening
your arms, raising your upper body off the floor.
Try to keep your pelvis against the floor, allowing
your lower back to arch. Hold, return to starting
position, and repeat. Center, left: Knee To Chest
Lie on your back, legs flat against the floor. Bend
one knee and bring it toward your chest, clasping
your hands behind your thigh as you gently pull in
your knee. Hold the position for at least five
seconds. Switch legs and repeat. Center, right:
Double-Knee Raise Lie on your back, legs flat
against the floor. Bend both knees, then bring them
toward your chest, clasping your hands around your
knees as you gently pull them in toward you. Hold
for three seconds, then slowly lower your legs to
the starting position. Bottom: Arm/Leg Lift Lie on
your stomach with your face down and arms extended
overhead, palms on the floor. Raise your left arm
and right leg as high as you comfortably can. Hold
for 10 seconds and slowly return to the starting
position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can treat it,
minimize it, and even prevent it by following some
“The better physical condition you’re in, the less likely
you’ll injure your back,” says Santhosh Thomas, D.O.,
medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Westlake Spine Center.
“That’s why everybody can benefit from strong abdominal and
Many factors can cause lower back pain. Thankfully, most
cases are not serious and respond to simple, non-invasive
treatments. Trauma and injuries from sprains and strains are
common culprits, but pain can also stem from degenerative
conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Bone disease,
viral infections, irritation to joints, disc herniation, and
congenital abnormalities in the spine can also cause an achy
Poor body mechanics can cause problems, too. If you’ve
overdone it playing golf or pulling up weeds, the result is
likely to be a sore back.
“You can just sleep awkwardly and get a stiff back,” says
Age also plays a part. As you get older, bone strength and
muscle elasticity decrease while your spinal discs begin to
lose fluid and flexibility, which decreases their ability to
cushion the spine’s vertebrae. Certain health-related
conditions and habits—such as obesity, stress, poor posture,
and smoking—can also aggravate your back.
Because it’s such a common problem, it might be tempting to
treat back pain as a minor matter. But Dr. Thomas says it’s
important to seek medical care if you experience severe
pain—particularly pain that wakes you at night—pain that
radiates from your back into your legs, or pain that doesn’t
go away in a reasonable amount of time. These symptoms could
indicate more serious conditions than just a strained
Fortunately, most cases of lower back pain can be treated at
home. Ice or a cold pack can ease soreness, Dr. Thomas says,
although some people find more relief from applying heat or
taking a hot shower or bath. Over-the-counter
anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil,
Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), are also helpful.
If you find such remedies don’t help, muscle relaxants or
prescription-strength pain medicine may be pre-scribed. Your
doctor may also refer you to a specialist for physical
therapy targeted at easing the pain as well as strengthening
your back muscles. Surgery, Dr. Thomas says, is the last
resort for most conditions.
Once your pain has subsided enough to allow you to
comfortably move about, exercise is recommended. “Anything
that keeps your joints moving and maintains flexibility is
good for you,” says Dr. Thomas. “Walking, biking, and
swimming are particularly beneficial if you suffer from back
Meanwhile, consider the exercises shown here to keep back
pain at bay. As with any exercise program, check with your
doctor before you begin.