Low back pain is the most frequent cause of missed work after the common cold and it has been estimated that over 20 million people suffer with this debilitating condition. Most of the time such pain is not serious, and it can be treated and even avoided by taking a few proactive steps.

Of course, if your pain is chronic and accompanied by numbness and tingling down one or both legs, you should consult your chiropractor or physician. Here are five pointers, which can significantly reduce low back pain.

The first step in addressing back pain is to “put out the fire.” Inflammation is the result of the joints, nerves, or soft tissues of your back becoming irritated, raw, and swollen. The initial medical treatment of choice is usually an oral anti-inflammatory and ice. You’ll need to consult your doctor about the former, but the later is a simple remedy. Flexible gel packs are best, but crushed ice works even better for guys over 200 pounds. To be effective, ice needs to be applied for periods of 15 to 20 minutes until the area feels numb. Don’t cover the ice with a towel because it will not penetrate deep enough into the tissue to work.  Try doing knee-to-chest and pelvic-rock stretching while lying on the ice. This is called cryokinetics, or “movement on ice” and it literally pumps swelling out of the back as you stretch.

The most common mechanical problems that cause low back pain are misalignment and fixation. A misalignment can occur as a result of an injury such as slipping or falling when two or more vertebrae move out of position and impinge on a nerve or a muscle.

Fixation, the less serious of the two, is the stiffness created by an injury or fall or just by being in one position for a prolonged period. According to the most recent governmental study on back pain, chiropractic adjustments or manipulations are the best methods of mobilizing the spine, reducing fixations, and creating normalizing alignment.

Once the vertebrae have been mobilized, it’s time to stretch the muscles of the low back to increase muscular flexibility. It only takes a few minutes of knee to chest, pelvic-rock stretches and cat stretches each day to avoid hours, days, even months of low back agony and missed work.

Pay attention to your posture. We spend most of our lives in three basic positions – sitting, standing, and sleeping. Sitting increases the pressure on your low back by twice your body weight. Get out of your chair at work, move around, stretch a little. If you’re on your feet all day, don’t lock your knees, slump or round your shoulders. Instead, spread your legs and press forward with an arch in your low back. When sleeping, don’t sleep on your belly. Try to sleep on your back with your knees bent. If you sleep on your side, use a pillow under your waist or between your knees to take pressure off your low back.

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