Lower Back Pain, Part 2

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In our last article, we discussed the high likelihood that lower back pain is in your apocalyptic  future.  90% of the general population experience this problem at one point or another even in good times. We can expect lower back pain to be a part of daily survival for the long haul.  For our link to part 1, clink this link:


The Various Causes of Lower Back Pain

We also discussed the various causes of lower back pain and how to tell them apart, including:

  • ·         muscle strain
  • ·         herniated discs
  • ·         sciatica
  • ·         osteoporosis
  • ·         genetic deformities
  • ·         spinal stenosis

There’s not much you can do to prevent being born with a defective spine, but you can certainly prevent traumatic injury to muscles by using some common sense.  Lift with your legs and not your back.  Never reach to lift something heavy.  Do stretching exercises before beginning any strenuous project.  I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this advice, but do you  think about how to prevent back injury before you do work?  If you did, you might avoid muscle strains, sciatica, and herniated discs.

How to Effectively Treat Lower Back Pain

So how can we best treat lower back pain when we don’t have a physical therapist at our disposal?  One of the cornerstones of lower back pain therapy is pain relief.  For our articles on conventional and natural pain relief options see the links below:



The other cornerstone is activity modification (in other words, take it easy). For the first 48 hours, markedly drop down on your activity level. Movement, however, is important for strong muscles; don’t stay bedridden for long or you may find your situation worsened by bedsores, vein clots (“thrombosis”) or other issues (topic of an article to come).  Keep your activities at low-impact levels until improved.

pillow between legs

While you’re in bed, lie on your side with a pillow between your knees; if you lie on your back, place a pillow below your knees.  While sitting, give yourself extra support by placing a pillow in the curve of your back.  Given a choice, sit in a chair with firm supports and not in bed. When standing, avoid frequent bending.  Use the wall to provide support to a healing back while you put pants and socks on. When you’re better, exercise to improve muscle tone and support.

pillow under legs

Interestingly, there is some controversy about hot packs and ice packs for lower back pain.  I would say to use ice packs immediately after a back injury and for 20 minutes at regular intervals for the first 24-48 hours or so. Later on, you may feel better using heat or alternating hot and cold.  In any case, decrease the swelling with ice first, and then use heat to loosen up sore muscles.

Old standbys like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are helpful as pain relievers and are stockpile-able.  Prescription muscle relaxants such as Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine) are effective in relieving muscle spasm and can be used in conjunction with Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, but are more difficult to get in quantity.

Of course, many methods such as Yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, meditation, physical therapy, exercise, and posture modification may yield effective results.  Exercise to strengthen stomach muscles, for example, may make the back muscles’ job a little easier.  Weight loss in obese individuals will cause less strain on overburdened back structures.

Other substances that may help certain types of lower back pain include:

  • Capsaicin cream
  • Arnica oil
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Willow Underbark
  • Ginger Root
Typical Capsaicin cream product

Nurse Amy will have an upcoming article on the above and other natural options in the near future.

If you have some years on you like I do, significant spinal stenosis, arthritis, and other age-related conditions may not be helped much by some of the above options.  We humans have a lot of moving parts, and wear and tear affects us just like it does your car.  Steroid injections are sometimes used to decrease the inflammation from compressed nerves.  Surgical intervention may help, but could cause scarring that makes the problem worse (this happened to one of my aunts).

High technology now gives us the capability of replacing some of these parts, but we’re not quite at total spine replacement (yet).  While you’ve got modern facilities available, take advantage of them to tune yourself up for the uncertain future.  Always ask about the risks and benefits of any treatment first, and do your own research.

One last aside: Although you might find it hard to believe, smoking may actually cause issues with back pain.  Nicotine and other toxins from cigarettes can deprive spinal discs from getting sufficient nutrients to stay pliant, leading to increased risk of herniation!

Dr. Bones


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Diabetes and Survival: Part 1
Lower Back Pain: Part 1