Chronic Back Pain Management – Help Is On The Way

As someone who has dealt with a lot of back problems for about 20 years, I want to take some time to discuss chronic back pain management.  I would like to talk about some of the things I have learned over the years, what to do, and not to do, to help manage back pain.

I had a real wakeup call in late 2015 and suffered a pretty severe back injury.  This has changed my mindset on how to manage everyday tasks in relation to my back pain.

Admittedly, I am a slow learner.  It really took me a long time, and a lot of trial and error to figure out what triggers my pain.

I was stubborn, stupid is more like it, and always just thought since I was young, I could continue to do whatever I wanted in life.  Whether it was lifting heavy (heavy for me) weights at the gym, or putting a dryer on my back if we were moving.

See, I have chronic pain, and if I twist wrong, or lift something I shouldn’t, this will trigger a twinge of shooting pain down my leg.

My pain typically runs down the side of my right leg, and I feel it in my foot.

The pain can be short-lived (go away within an hour) or will stick around for a while (a few days).

If I do something stupid, try something new (or overdo it) at the gym, short-lived pain is not too severe.

Often times after a night of sleep, the pain will have subsided and I am good to go the next day.  There are occasions when it does take a few days for it to clear up.

I have learned what tends to set off the electricity radiating down my leg.  Now, if only I could harness that energy to power my house LOL!

So, let’s get into some of the things I have learned over the years, and hopefully, some of these can rub off on you if you are in a similar situation.

Proper lifting really matters

We lift a lot of stuff during the day, even though you may not realize it.  Putting a child in a car seat, groceries in and out of the car, moving a load of laundry, we lift a lot. Proper lifting for chronic back pain management

There are a lot of opportunities for injury, even doing everyday tasks if you don’t perform them correctly.  Improper lifting can cause harm to muscles, joints, and discs in your back [1]

As I mentioned, if I twist, or lift something awkwardly, this set off my sciatica, that shooting, tingling, sometimes numb feeling all the way down to the toes on my right foot.

Proper lifting is essential to help guard against back pain. Following these steps, may help your pain:

  • It is essential to keep your back straight when you lift. They always say to lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Try keeping a straight back, chest out, and bend with your hips, this can really make a big difference.
  • Keeping objects close to your body will help as well. If I hold a heavy object out away from my body, I notice right away my pain triggers.

If you are a lower back lifter, this mechanically correct motion may take some time getting used to, but your lower back with thank you at the end of the day.

Check your ego and ask for help

This one has been super hard for me.

First of all, I am a man, so asking for help is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, especially when lifting heavy objects.

Second of all, I am a man, and I don’t ask for help when I lift heavy objects.

Okay, with that out of the way, I don’t care if you are male or female if you have back problems, sciatica, for example, as I do, do yourself a solid by getting some help.

My wife is always happy to help, and the two of us working together can do a lot.  Ask a friend, or a neighbor, brother, sister, whoever, as long as it is someone who is physically capable.

For years, I just did everything myself, I finally got smart and learned that it’s better to ask for help than spend days in pain because I was too stubborn.  Work smarter, not harder!

Walk it off

Walking can be a handy tool in the fight against back pain.  You may not realize it, but walking helps to build endurance and even works the core muscles.  Plus, walking is a great low impact exercise, and little impact is good for back pain.Walking for chronic back pain management

If you are physically able to go for a walk with your back pain, you can see some benefits. When we exercise, the body releases endorphins.  These endorphins help to reduce the perception of pain. [2]

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but just a short walk around the block, or during lunchtime at work can really help.

Not only the endorphin release, but walking will also help you to build muscle that will help to support your spine, and hopefully help your back pain.

I would recommend a good supportive shoe, like a running shoe, and try to walk on even terrain. By all means, if walking hurts, stop.

Move your body

In addition to walking, an exercise plan is the ultimate way to stave off back pain.  A lot of back pain is temporary and will go away on its own.  One way to help prevent back pain is to stick with an exercise program.exercise for chronic back pain management

Building or maintaining the muscles that support the spine can be an effective way to stop or prevent future flare-ups.  Depending on your current condition, you may need to consult with your doctor to see if a complete exercise program is for you.

With all the sitting we do these days, at work, in the car, at home, our muscles sometimes don’t get the work they need.  Sitting all day can cause muscles to tighten, and that can lead to more significant problems.  Working out just a few days per week can make a big difference.

One of my favorite exercises is using an elliptical machine. This is a low impact way to work your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core muscles.  If you belong to a gym, put that membership to good use.

If you do not belong to a gym and are interested in an elliptical for your home, I have some reviews on my site, for instance, check out my post about elliptical machines or this one about elliptical trainers from Bowflex.

Posture

Another area I struggle with!  I am always aware of my posture, or my lack of at times.  I find myself hunched over my keyboard and I have to remind myself to correct that bad posture.Proper sitting posture

When you slouch, this can put undue pressure on your spine, which can lead to problems with muscles, joints, and discs in your back.  What this all means is that poor posture can cause much more significant problems.

I am indeed guilty of slouching, but I do catch myself and correct it frequently throughout the day.

Some basic tips that I have learned over the years are:

  • Walk tall – put your phone away!! Don’t’ walk hunched over, staring at your phone. There will be plenty of time to do that when you are supposed to be working J
  • When you are sitting at your desk, keep your back flush against your chair and your feet firmly on the floor. Your knees hip should be pretty much level.

All of these little things can add up when it comes to posture, so try to keep this in mind next time you are hunched over your keyboard.

Wrapping things up: Chronic back pain management

Hopefully, you can implement some of these tips I have learned over the years to manage your back pain.  I think the most significant things to take away here are learning to ask for help, and moving your body.

We tend to fall into these bad habits and fail to get up and move during the day, and this can have adverse effects on our backs.  Muscles will tighten up, discs can become compromised, and it’s downhill from there.

Back pain can be very frustrating and especially sciatic nerve pain, as I know all too well.  Little things like lifting correctly, exercise and proper posture can go a long way to helping manage back pain.

Trying to avoid making back pain worse is one thing I have been focusing on in my life.  It has taken me some time to figure out what my pain triggers are.  Hopefully, you can gain from my experience.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and I will do my best to get to you as soon as I can.

Steve@BuildingStrongerBodies.com


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13 thoughts on “Chronic Back Pain Management – Help Is On The Way”

  1. Thanks for the reminder on some of the ways to strengthen your back. I just had my first child a few months ago and my back has started to hurt a little. My posture before my child wasn’t great and now that I have my new little guy, I find myself really not sitting in a good posture, which is probably contributing to the small amount of back pain I’ve been having. I do exercise regularly, so hopefully that’ll keep helping to minimize the back pain, unfortunately I have a job where I sit and I find myself slouching a ton. Appreciate your tips!

    • Thanks for the comment Jeremy. Congratulations on your first child, that is a challenge and a blessing.

      I can sympathize with all the bending over that a kid requires, constantly picking them up, changing diapers, etc. I would say now more than ever proper posture is critical.

      As for the work situation, you may want to check out my post about the best sit stand workstation. I have a sit stand desk and it does wonders for my posture and my workday.

      Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Steve!

    It was so wonderful to read your post. When I was 14 I had a horseback riding accident and fractured my lower lumbar spine and I have been dealing with chronic sciatica ever since!

    And you’re right. Asking for help when I need to move things is the hardest for me to cope with. I’ve gotten better because my boyfriend is adamant that I ask for help even if I don’t think I need it because it’s not worth that tweaking or twisting the wrong thing.

    I’ve had times when I’m in the grocery store and my knees have given out because of that pain that shoots down the leg (for me it’s the right leg that is also the worst!)

    I’ve been seeing chiropractors for years because of it. I would a few “episodes” (as I call them) a year where I couldn’t get out of bed because it would make me cry just to think about lifting my legs! But thankfully it has gotten better with time and implementing practices like these, it’s just difficult to stay on top of it all of the time.

    I have also found that with the posture area that back-braces and shapewear have really helped in reminding me to keep good posture, and supporting my spine throughout the day. I don’t wear them all the time, but I do if I’m starting to feel little tweaks, or if I know that I am going to be doing something strenuous. That is actually what my personal website is about if you’d fancy taking a look.

    Thank you again for the thoughtful article!

    • Thank you for the comment, Madi. I am so sorry to hear about your back problems, I can relate and it’s not a great place to be. Managing the pain and trying to NOT make it worse, is sometimes all I hope for during the day.

      Yes, it has taken me a long time to swallow my ego and ask for help. I would rather live life the best I can than end up with excruciating pain.

      I worked with a chiropractor, still do, after my injury in 2015. This particular chiro has been great for me and is all about building muscle to help support the spine. I take each day one at a time.

      Thanks again for stopping by, I really appreciate hearing your story and can appreciate what you are dealing with.

  3. So many people don’t realise that as we age muscles get weaker if we don’t strengthen them. This includes all the muscles that support and assist movement of the spine and the ones that help us bear our own weight. Keeping our core strong as well as our glutes and thigh muscles will help our back and support our weight and movement. A certified trainer to teach us exercises for our core/back/legs goes a long way.

    • Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. I agree with your comment, it’s imperative to keep muscles strong and active so they will support us as we age. It’s not even about bodybuilding, but just about functionality. Even 20-30 minutes of exercise a few times per week can go a long way. Thanks again!

  4. Hi Steve,
    Luckily, a bad back is something I haven’t suffered with. That being said, I do take a lot more care now then when I was younger.
    Now I always try to lift properly and exercise too. I go to the gym and also my work is very physical.
    I have spoken to people who didn’t suffer with a bad back until later in life and that helps me to look after my back now.
    I don’t want to end up damaging my back now after always being fine.
    My dad however has suffered with a bad back for long time now and is restricted in what and how long he can do stuff because of the pain.
    I always tell him to walk as it’s good exercise.
    I shall get him to read your post now and hopefully that’ll help him too.
    Thanks.
    Best wishes,
    Michael.

    • Thank you for your comment Michael. Yes, a lot of people underestimate walking or other types of exercise as a way to prevent back problems. I hope you are able to help your dad along the way. Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.

      • Hi Steve,
        Yes, I do help him when I can.
        He can only do things for a little while before he needs to rest so if I’m about i’ll always help him.
        I do encourage him to walk a bit everyday as I know that will help.
        Thanks again for your great post.
        Best wishes,
        Michael.

  5. Hi Steve,

    that is a beautiful article you have written there. I really enjoyed reading it! Just recently we had a neighbor over who suffers from severe chronic back pain. He saw how I lifted a laundry basket: Filled with water plus my 3-year old son sitting inside. I thought it was fun; plus it made me look strong 🙂 Well, after I put it down he was like: Yap, that is EXACTLY how I ruined my back!

    That got me thinking. He’s just a few years older than me, and ruining your back certainly is not a question of age, but more of doing things the wrong way. Especially lifting! From now on I’ll try to avoid being stupid (though that can be pretty hard for us men who like to refuse asking for help, as you pointed out, right!?).

    I liked the article, it reminds me to be more careful. My mom had pretty severe back pain as well and I certainly know how she suffered from it. I don’t want that!

    Thank you,
    chris

    • Thank you for stopping by Chris, I appreciate your comment.

      Yes, it is hard to ask for help, that is one of the things I struggle with even today, knowing I have a history of back problems. I totally understand you having fun with your son in the laundry basket, I did that with my kids too 🙂

      I agree with you on aging, that definitely has an effect, but it’s not the only factor when dealing with a bad back.

      I am glad you enjoyed this post, I hope you will stop by again soon.

  6. These are all great tips that I plan on sharing with my dad. He has had at least 5 back operations and now his posture is not the greatest. When he visits, I always make him stand up straight. Problem is that he was a hunter and would carry deer, etc over his shoulder which is where he got all of his problems to begin with. Thanks for all the great information!

    • Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. Ouch, five back operations, I am sorry to hear that. Sounds like he has had a rough go with shoulder and back problems. I wish your dad the best, and thanks again for stopping by.

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