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Five Ways to Ease Low Back Pain

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Did you know that 80 percent of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives? For a few, that pain is long-term. Back pain can affect the everyday life of the sufferer and his or her family and is a big cause of missed working days.

Sometimes back pain has a known cause. For instance, osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis of the spine, but for 19 out of 20 cases of back pain, the cause is not known. This is called non-specific back pain. If you suffer from non-specific back pain, here are a few tips to help you regain your life:

1. A lot of back pain is due to posture, particularly as many people now spend hours sitting in uncomfortable office chairs. When you sit, try to remember to sit with a straight back. Have a cushion behind your back to support it, such as a V-shaped cushion that has been designed to support pregnant women. They are suitable for anyone with back problems. Ask your employer for a posture friendly chair.

2. When you sleep, use a full body pillow, preferably made from memory foam so that it molds itself to your body’s shape. Don't sleep on a firm mattress as this can put too much pressure on the spine and make back pain worse. A medium mattress will do.

3. Do light exercise. Inactivity causes the muscles to atrophy, which will make the pain worse and could even lead to disability. Examples of light exercise include walking to the shops or taking your dog for a walk. Going swimming a couple of times a week might also help, both in improving your mobility and due to the warm water decreasing your pain.

4. Consider going to an osteopath or chiropractor to have your back manipulated. For people who have recently begun to experience back pain, this can be effective at resolving it. Future adjustments can sometimes prevent further episodes of back pain. Aromatherapy massages by a qualified professional can also have a similar effect. In addition to helping ease pain, aromatherapy massage can increase lymphocytes, protective blood cells that help the immune system. This improved the immune function and decreased stress and depression in the patients studied. If you have asthma or eczema, please consult your doctor before trying aromatherapy.

5. Take up yoga classes. Yoga has been shown to work more effectively at reducing back pain than use of a self-help book for chronic back pain. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 101 adults with chronic low back pain and gave half of them a self-help book and/or exercise and the other half, 12 weekly sessions of yoga. They found that "Patients in the yoga and exercise groups reported good adherence at 26 weeks. Compared with self-care, symptoms were milder and function was better with yoga. Yoga was more effective than a self-care book for improving function and reducing chronic low back pain, and the benefits persisted for at least several months."

Sources: NHS, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Backpain/Pages/Backexercises.aspx
Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2005 Jun; 2 (2): pages 179-84.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Low Back Pain, Best Prac Res Clin Rheumatol, 2005 Aug; 19 (4): pages 639-54
Annals of Internal Medicine, December 20, 2005 vol. 143 no. 12 849-856.

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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