Guidelines for Recovering from Low Back Pain

Guidelines for Recovering from Low Back Pain

In addition to stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises, there are several lifestyle guidelines that can help in the healing and rehabilitation process.

Manage Anxiety About Low Back Pain

Controlling anxiety and fear of re-injury and low back pain is very important to regain normal muscle function. The basis for these psychological reactions to low back pain lies in the central nervous system, which responds to pain by instructing the muscles near the affected part to protect against further injury. Only appropriate physical training that specifically tells the muscles to improve their function can overcome this neurological barrier to normal muscle function.

Eat Properly to Help the Back Heal

The healing process can be aided with appropriate nutrition, which includes adequate calorie intake in a balanced manner. If all calories consumed are in the form of sugars (such as breads, pasta, and sweets), any calories not immediately needed for energy are converted into fat. Extra weight can slow the healing process. A balanced diet includes adequate protein as a source of the building blocks of soft tissue healing. Additionally, fresh fruit and vegetables supply the vitamins and trace elements necessary for effective healing. A vitamin supplement may also be helpful.

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Stop Smoking to Improve Oxygen Flow to the Spine

Studies have shown that the development of lower back pain was significantly associated with smoking. The underlying theory for this is that smoking deprives the spine structures of nutrients, particularly oxygen in the blood supply (because smokers’ lungs do not intake or distribute oxygen as effectively as non-smokers’) and thereby interferes with the spine's attempts to repair itself. Stopping smoking can improve oxygen flow and improve rehabilitation outcomes.

Get Adequate Sleep to Support the Healing Process

One of the best ways to encourage sleep is to induce physical weariness through active exercise. Chronic inactivity does not create a need for the deep sleep that is so helpful for physical and emotional healing. Clearly, stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine should be avoided at bedtime. Smoking should also be avoided because it diminishes the available blood supply and makes the nervous system more sensitive.

Control Medication Use for Back Pain

While medications are often important for low back pain relief, one should also be careful about the use of medications. For example, use of narcotic medications and muscle relaxants over time may cause depression and should be used as little as possible. Also, while anti-inflammatory medications may provide low back pain relief, there is no evidence that they do anything to speed the process of healing. The use of heat therapy or cold therapy, or liniment or massage therapy, as mechanisms for pain control are very safe and positive alternatives for low back pain management.

Exercise Properly for Back Fitness

Exercising in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner is the one signal the body responds to so that it knows to heal. Injections and medications can provide low back pain relief but cannot stimulate the healing process. If a pain problem has persisted for many weeks, the body is demonstrating that there are barriers to the healing process that need to be eliminated. The natural stimulus for the healing process is active exercise. Active exercise means using the nervous system to tell the muscles what to do, and includes dedication to an appropriate, comprehensive exercise and rehabilitation program.

Work With a Professional for Low Back Pain

Finally, seeking the assistance of an appropriately trained and licensed health professional for back rehabilitation and exercise is highly recommended. The back is a complicated structure, and specialists have a defined protocol to identify the cause of back pain. And it’s always important to see a physician if the lower back pain lasts for more than a few weeks or a month or if there are any symptoms that cause concern, as the continued pain and/or symptoms may signify a serious medical condition.

Ultimately, participating in developing and maintaining an active rehabilitation and exercise program for low back pain should help patients heal faster and have fewer recurrences of back pain.

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Vert Mooney, MD
Article written by: Vert Mooney, MD