Your most Googled questions about back pain, answered

If you’ve ever suffered from back pain (and the majority of the nation has), you’ll know that it can be desperately uncomfortable, difficult to manage, and costly to sort.

‘Back pain can emanate from many different areas and structures,’ says Nate Bogedain DC M.Sc, Proback Clinics Chiropractor. ‘It can be from our muscles, ligaments, spinal joints, vertebral discs, or referred from other areas like our abdomen. The difficulty for most people is identifying what is contributing to their pain and finding effective solutions for their problem.’

‘Back pain can be constant or variable, activity dependent, time of day dependent, body position dependent, and may vary in intensity and description.’

To give you the best possible chance of managing your back pain successfully, we asked Nate to answer the most commonly Googled questions around the subject. Here’s what he had to say.

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How can I quickly and effectively relieve back pain?

We are movement dependent beings. Our spine, muscles, joints and brain require movement to stay healthy and so when back pain arises staying mobile is beneficial. Any exercise or activity should be done safely and to the best of your ability. The good news is that movement, even if it’s simply walking, can help relieve aches and pains.

How can I relieve upper back pain?

Upper back pain can be relieved by strengthening the mid back extensor muscle groups. Common exercises I utilise in my daily routine and with patients are Y, T and W scapula strengthening movements, wall angles, and neck retraction. With healing the increased frequency of doing something is more important than the intensity. Slow controlled movement is better than quick movements when rehabbing an area.

What could cause lower back pain when walking?

One of the reason people experience back pain from walking is that is that the movement creates spinal changes which can place undue stress on lower body joints and muscles. A person with a problematic foot, knee, hip or pelvis could experience lower back pain while walking, due to a change in their walking style. Furthermore, having poor balance or moving your neck or arm incorrectly while walking may result in pain conditions. If you are experiencing pain while walking the best thing to do is be assessed by a qualified professional who can provide you with specific solutions for the cause of your gait problem.

What is the best exercise to relieve lower back pain?

Exercises which concentrate on strengthening the core and extension posture are best for lower back pain. Begin by using your natural body weight and then add resistance as you get stronger. Exercises I perform routinely and which help many of our back pain patients include: supine bridges, side planks, quadruped cross crawl and clam shells. I recommend three sets, with 10-15 reps three times a day. When it comes to healing, the increased frequency of doing something is more important than the intensity. Slow controlled movement is better than quick movements when rehabbing an area.

Other exercises that can be helpful in strengthening the back and improving our movement would include activities such as yoga, pilates, swimming or tai-chi. Most exercises should focus on strengthening core and extension muscles – best done through minimal resistance activities.

What exercises can I do to relieve arthritis related back pain?

The above exercises are also applicable in helping to relieve back pain related to arthritis, or degeneration. Most exercises have basic foundational movements which can be progressed into more complicated and dynamic movements. Finding a gentle but challenging starting point is key, and then increase difficulty as the exercises become easier to perform.

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What are the best mattresses for back pain?

Sleep is an important part of health and healing. When we do not sleep well, we do not heal well; this makes having a good quality mattress an investment in our health and wellbeing. A good mattress is about having adequate and even weight distribution throughout your body. When trying to select one it is the support of the mattress that is the most important feature. Firm or soft is more preference for the individual sleeper. Spring mattresses do not provide adequate support and wear down quicker than other high end mattresses. A mattress should last 8-10 years and so is an investment worth saving up for. Most companies will let you trial a mattress for at least 30 days before committing to purchase.

What is the best sleeping position for helping back pain?

Side lying is the best position for even weight distribution and keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout rest. Right sided lying has been demonstrated to be slightly better than left, contributing to improved heart rate variability or vagal tone; both indicators of a healthy and adaptive nervous and cardiovascular system.

What are the causes of female lower back pain?

Lower back pain during a women’s cycle can be related to poor pelvic positioning and stability. The reproductive organs are suspended in the pelvic cavity with the round and broad ligaments that attach to the pelvic wall. These ligament can be stretched, twisted, and laced due to pelvic instability. This places mechanical stress on the reproductive organs, which can generate pain. The pelvic wall can be strengthened with exercises namely abdominal breathing and abdominal bracing, along with several of the exercises mentioned above. Other reasons for chronic low back pain related to a women’s cycle, which need to be ruled out, includes: hormone regulation, adrenal gland function, thyroid function, inflammation related to dietary/food sensitivities.

Can constipation cause back pain?

Constipation can cause low back pain. The cause of the constipation needs to be addressed for this to resolve. Taking laxatives clears the bowels, but does not prevent it from reoccurring.

Do muscle relaxers work in easing back pain?

Muscle relaxers do not work for low back pain. Most relief gained from them is due to the drowsiness induced by them. They are meant to reduce muscle spasms, which are only one reason for low back pain. Again they do not fix the cause of the low back pain however, only mask it.

What are the best painkillers for back pain?

Painkillers are the same in that respect. Pain is a signal to the brain that something is not functioning correctly. Although pain can be debilitating, masking it with painkillers won’t restore proper function. However when taking over the counter pain meds do not exceed doctor or label recommendations, as most will cause a breakdown in the stomach and intestinal barrier when taken in excess. If the pain remains after several days, at the same intensity, please get evaluated so you can receive the right treatment to help get you back to living your best life sooner.