Did you know that approximately 80% of Americans experience at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime? It’s one of the leading causes for missed days of work, school and decreased productivity. The traditional treatment route includes ice, heat and pain killers, but what if you could alleviate the pain in the comfort of your own living room?

Even the medical staff at the UCLA health center is beginning to consider alternative treatments to help save patients time, money and keep the appointments books of the spine specialists clear for cases that really need it. They found that 70% – 90% of patients with back pain improve with seven weeks of conservative treatment (ice, heat, position that relieve the pain, etc).

Expensive scans and MRIs can sometimes complicate the issue, as they can reveal structural issues that are unrelated to the current pain and a prescription for painkillers can lead to a downward spiral of opioid abuse (and major constipation, but nobody talks about that).

I too have suffered from back pain – I did what so many of us do and slapped some ice on it and ignored it for as long as I could. But my back pain would not subside and transformed into sciatica. This led me to Physical Therapy and eventually to where I currently am with my interests, but I honestly wish I knew then what I know now.

So if you currently are or have ever suffered from back pain, give these three things a try to see if they offer any relief.

  1. Practice belly breathing. Back pain can cause (and is often caused) by tension in and around the abdominal muscles. If there’s been an injury to the low back, it is very common to see an increase in tension in all of the surrounding muscles. Deep breathing, specifically into the abdomen, can help to reduce stress which can lead to global relaxation of the body’s tissues. The act of breathing also physically stretches the myofascias of the abdomen, which can also help to decrease back pain.
  2. Stretch. If you have back pain, chances are the surrounding areas are filled with tension. Long held stretches help to relax the fascias of the muscles, as well as relax your nervous system (are you sensing a pattern here?). Muscles to target are the hamstrings, inner thighs, quadriceps and hips. Here’s one of my favorite ways to stretch glutes, hamstrings, hips and low back at the same time! Note: You can do this same stretch without a Coregeous ball.
  3. Abdominal massage. I hope by this point, you see the pattern of stress relief, belly breathing and stretch to help alleviate back pain. Abdominal massage with a soft inflated ball will help with all three! My favorite is the Coregeous ball because it’s grippy skin helps fast track relaxation, but is pliable enough to give under the weight of my body. If you are having trouble figuring out if or how to breathe into your abdomen, this tool will teach you how. It also helps to stretch the muscles of the abdomen, all of which are related to breathing and back pain. To start, grab a soft, inflated ball, place it on your bellybutton and lay face down. Begin breathing into the ball, trying to breathe as deeply as possible. If it is too intense, try to contract and relax your abdominal muscles, holding the activation for 8-10 seconds.

Hopefully, you find some swift at home relief with these three techniques. If not, as always, call in the big guns and be sure to get checked out by a healthcare professional.

Do you suffer from back pain? What is your go-to stretch or technique for relief?

Resources: UCLA Health Vital Signs, http://vitalsigns.uclahealth.org/winter2017/files/8.html

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