Strained lower back recs
September 16, 2019 2:08 AM   Subscribe

I strained my lower back two days ago. I'm resting it, using Tiger Balm, taking NSAIDS, etc. However, I'm finding that certain things such as sitting on a wooden chair seem to make it worse. Rather than discovering "this causes agony" by trial and error, I'd love to hear what has made your lower back worse and/or better.
posted by rednikki to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Do you drive? I have chronic lower back issues and using an Aylio or similar contoured cushion with a cutout fur your tailbone on long drives was a revelation. I can now walk the next day. Used it for years now. Wouldn’t leave for a long drive without one. Might help for a regular chair too.
posted by spitbull at 3:12 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Standing in a hot shower and bending down to touch my toes (hold it for a while) helps loosen it up.

Also, I keep a small inflatable pillow in the car to be a lumbar pad and push me more upright. I drove a 2005 Camry until last year, and the slouch it forced me into was really bad -- which I didn't really know until I got a different car (Subaru Outback) that has me sitting up straighter.

Sitting up straight in general is a big help for you back!

Good luck, back pain sucks.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:43 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bio freeze !
posted by pintapicasso at 3:57 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the short term: back braces.

In the longer term: Physical therpay exercises (for example). Good posture (slouching is terrible for your back). A firm mattress (I discovered that my box-spring was horribly broken the last time I had back pain issues).
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:10 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Some people I know swear by this: lie flat on the floor perpendicular to the front of your couch and put the lower part of your legs on the couch. Or use a chair, a bed, whatever lets you rest your lower legs while keeping your knees at an approximate 90 degree angle. Try it for a few minutes and do your best to relax.
posted by mareli at 5:29 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Right now if you can afford it I'd go to a massage with someone recommended.
posted by trig at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2019

Stretching and massage. In particular, hip rotations, lying on the floor and doing gentle twists, hip tilts, and slow small bridges keeps the muscles from staying in spasm for me. Massage is similarly helpful.

"Early mobilization" is the key to a quick recovery. Don't sit in the car driving for a long period, don't sit in chairs immobilized--keep up the gentle movements and your body will heal. In the long term, improving your core strength and posture (through physical therapy?) will keep the pain away in the future.

Good luck, I know how much this sucks, but you'll get through it.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:30 AM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

- cushion with a tailbone cutout
- naproxen (more effective than any other NSAID)
- hip opener stretches (reclined pigeon, regular pigeon, or standing pigeon pose in yoga speak)
- Viniyoga exercises, specifically the back series (the various poses used are described here)
- wall stretch (here's a gif)

- driving for long periods of time without cushions to modify posture
- anything that presses against my tailbone for a long period of time (wooden chairs ouch)
- sitting for long periods of time in general (when I make copies or have a few minutes while I wait for a thing, I do the wall stretch and the standing pigeon pose)
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:32 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

The easiest thing you can do is go for a brisk walk at least an hour a day. I found Back Mechanic to be a good guide to maintaining better back health.
posted by Dmenet at 8:39 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

People are split on ice versus heat, but I find that ice is best for the first few days and then heat. i find cortisone shots incredibly helpful to get me to the point where I can move around without horrible pain but I believe it depends on the type of back pain you're experiencing and they're not without possible side effects. I have done physical therapy for lower back issues and these are essentially the stretches and exercises I was taught.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2019

Seconding epanalepsis. My experience; as long as I kept moving (gently, no straining) and stretching, the pain and discomfort was minimized. Sitting stationary for any length of time would have my back tightening up a lot (the commute and classroom time was pretty rough). I think it was about three days of NSAIDs, a heating pad when I was laying down, stretching and gentle normal movement to dial off the spasms, but I was a lot younger then.
posted by coppertop at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2019

In my experience with lower back pain, stretching has been the best at reducing pain and increasing flexibility. It took me about 10 years to realize this. You'll want to experiment with what works for you, but I do a combination of these types of stretches, each for a full minute, 2x a day, and it's very helpful. Also, use a timer to make sure you hold the stretches for as long as you should.
posted by benbenson at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

I injured my lower back during a sport when I was in my 20s, and I tried various approaches for years. This article on research on lower back pain rings true to me: exercise works best for lower back pain. And it doesn't matter what kind of exercise you do, but regular participation in a physical activity helps you recover and heal and be stronger. The research was a meta-analysis of studies that included more than 30,000 people with back pain.

"While back belts and shoe insoles didn't seem to offer a benefit, they determined, exercise reduced the risk of repeated low-back pain in the year following an episode between 25 and 40 percent. It didn't really matter what kind of exercise — core strengthening, aerobic exercise, or flexibility and stretching."

Sitting is not actually very good for our bodies.

Do you do any kind of physical activity regularly? I would suggest starting with long walks on a daily basis and some very gentle stretching or yoga. Back pain is one of those things where a healthy, active lifestyle really does do a lot to help you recover and prevent future injury.

If you hurt too much to talk, get thee to a doctor right away. Don't mess around with that.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

In these threads I always recommend what works for me, a set of five yoga poses. But benbenson already recommended them, so all is well. Seriously, these five exercises have changed my life and drastically reduced the amount of pain meds and muscle relaxers I have to take, while simultaneously restoring mobility I thought I had lost forever. If your injury is still too recent, and you feel like you can't do all of them, then "legs against the wall" will get pooled blood and inflammation to slowly start draining back out of that area. It is also the easiest one to do, the one that hurts the least, and has possibly the greatest benefit for most people (not for me, but I still love it-- for my own injury, it is the hamstring stretch that lets me walk again after a back spasm). I find that using a towel or the head of a cane over the bottom of my foot lets me do the hamstring stretch with proper form, and with my hands I can apply the stretch as much as I want. It is helpful, although I eventually moved on to a "Body Back Buddy" physical therapy tool, which has many other beneficial uses for massage and mobility.
posted by seasparrow at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thirding those yoga poses. I've thrown my back out twice, and a friend of mine who is prone to similar back trouble showed me those stretches and it made a world of difference. (it also lead to a glorious moment when my friend was showing me those poses in our theater company office and the director of our latest show came in to find us lying on the floor in pigeon pose.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

A few more helpful things when I strained my back (mostly recently while lifting a bag of cucumbers, yeesh)
- Back support belt. I got a basic one, without any fancy braces. I don't think it was the support part that helped in the long run, but more the reminder to my body to move, stand, sit upright.
- Knee to chest pose (but the kind described here that involved some "reps")

When I am not in pain, I do supported bridge pose. But in the middle of back pain episodes it's too intense for me.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2019

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