Almost everyone experiences lower back pain at some point. Even mild back pain tends to be difficult to get rid of, and it can dominate your life, overshadowing everything you do in a day.
For employees who spend a good part of each day sitting, weakened back muscles and lower back pain are especially common. Here’s what you can do to help relieve back pain.
First ice, then heat
Soon after your back starts hurting, it’s a good idea to apply an ice pack to the affected area. You don’t need to buy one from a pharmacy – a pack of frozen peas will serve equally well. Apply the pack for 15 to 20-minute intervals, giving your skin a chance to recover in between. The purpose of the ice is to reduce inflammation.
After two days, you can switch to applying heat, which will help relax your lower back muscles. A range of topical creams and gels that have either heating or cooling effects can also provide some relief.
Take an anti-inflammatory
An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naxproxen can provide immediate relief. This type of drug relieves pain by reducing inflammation, which is typically involved in lower back pain.
Of course, take an anti-inflammatory only if you know that it won’t interfere with any other medication you currently take or compromise your health due to an existing medical condition.
It’s tempting to crawl into a bed when something hurts. In the case of lower back pain, however, this isn’t the best approach. Instead gentle stretching and walking are by far the best ways to ease the lower back muscles and help them recover.
Gentle exercise ensures good blood supply to the muscles in your back. This keeps them warm, prevents them from “stiffening up” and helps them heal.
If you’re at work, take every opportunity you can to go for brief walks. Get out of your chair and stretch every 15 to 20 minutes. Also consider doing at least part of your work for the day in a standing position.
Invest in the right office chair
An ergonomically designed office chair that provides proper support for your spine will help prevent you from getting back pain in the first place. If you’ve already injured your back, it may keep periods of sitting from making the situation worse.
Look for these characteristics in a well-designed office chair:
- a shape designed to suit the S-shaped curve of the spine, with proper support for the lumbar region of the back
- rounded seat edges, to prevent unnecessary pressure on your legs
- adjustable height – the perfect chair lets you rest your feet flat on the floor and keeps your arms positioned so that you don’t have to lean forward or bend your wrists while working
- easy swivelling, to make it unnecessary to twist your upper body when reaching for items or turning to face someone.