Nobody should live with back pain. That’s my line and I’ll keep saying it until the absenteeism from work due to back pain in the UK is rock bottom!!

When you are experienceing back pain it’s easy to think that it’s a great big fat problem that is going to take forever and a day to resolve, and alot of money and treatment. Not so. Much of back pain is an easy fix. And a quick fix. Because it is lots of little things you are doing throughout the day that are causing the pain in the first place.

There is SO much you can do to ease your back pain right now;

Uncross your legs and sit up straight
Why does this work?
The majority of back pain is musclular. And the majority of muscular back pain is caused by the muscles fatiguing, from trying to hold your back in an awkward position (“poor posture”). If you sit up straight, your back muscles can instantly relax. When your spine is straight, your painfull back muscles don’t have to work, and they get a bit of a break. You will get instant reduction in your back pain.

Contract your abdominal muscles
Why does this work?

Following on from tip no. 1: The painfull muscles in your back cannot relax if your core muscles are not activated. If you contract your lower abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus) to about 10-30% of maximum contraction, you will activate your core muscles (Multifidus). You will feel your low back muscles relax instantly. They relax because they finally CAN. If the core muscles are activated, the painfull back muscles are able to switch off. Instant pain relief.

Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest
Why does this work?
Once you have reached a certain level of back pain, often your painfull back muscles are so tight that they are in a gentle ‘spasm’. When you lie on your back and draw your knees to your chest, you lengthen the painfull back muscles, and gently start to break the spasm. If you follow this with relaxed and gentle efforts to touch your toes while standing, even if your knees are bent, you will feel your back muscles ‘let go’ or ‘release’. This will provide you with some good pain relief. When you have a gentle or a stong back spasm, back bends will tend to make it worse. SO I personally advise people to avoid back bends and head for knee hugs when dealing with immediate pain relief. ( if you have a disc bulge and have been advised by your therapist to do back bends this is different).

Take some magnesium
Why does this work?

Without magnesium, muscles cannot relax. When we get stressed, we leach magnesium. We are living in a society that is chronically deficient in magnesium. Many of us are deficient without realising – the only thing we know is that whatever we do, those darn shoulder or back muscles keep tightening up.
There are several ways to get magnesium into your system: 1. Tablets 2. Oil – rubbed directly onto the tight muscles 3. Powder taken in water. Any of these will do. The fastest may be magnesium oil directly onto the muscles hurting. The best long term strategy in my opinion is magnesium powder dissolved into water.

Drink some water
Why does this work?
Lack of movement can cause metabilites to build up in your muscles and interstitial tissues. A particular substance called ‘P’ substance can build up, causing you pain. Hydrating your system helps to detox metabolites from your system, and therefore help to reduce painfull muscles.

Resist the next cup of coffee. Opt for a hot water with lemon instead
Why does this work?
The mode of action of this point is similar to the one above. Caffeine dehydrates you, and allows the metabilites and p-substance to build up in your muscles. Caffein is also a stimulant that causes your body to produce adrenalin, which very often increases your muscles tension – resulting in more back pain. Reducing caffeine will reduce the adrenalin in your system, helping you, and your muscles, to relax.

Stress is a major contributing factor to muscular back pain. Throughout the day, when you work under stressfull conditions, your muscles are gradually getting tighter and tighter, and more and more painfull.

The next 3 tips are all based around the goal of relaxing you, switching your parasympathetic system on, and your sympathetic system off, so that you encourage your muscles to relax, and stop hurting:

Relax. Lie down for 10 minutes. If you can, do a guided relaxation on your ipod.
Why does this work?
This does several things that contribute to pain relief: it gives your muscles a break from holding you in an upright position, which will give you instant pain relief, and stop the build up of muscle tension. It allows your discs to re-hydrate and take a break. The guided relaxation will switch your brain into beta waves, kicking off a massive relaxation response in your body, and a cascade of happy horemones to flood your system, relaxing your back muscles, and enabling them to keep going for longer before tightening up.

Eat a piece of chocolate
Why does this work?
Chocolate is known to trigger your brain to release endorphines! This will relax you and your muscles and provide you with some quick pain relief.

Take 5 deep breathes and imagine being on a beach
Why does this work?
Just taking a couple of minutes to close your eyes, breath deeply, and go to your ‘happy place’ places a brake on the gradual increase in tension levels in your back muscles. It is last but not least on my list of top tips. It works. Do it!

Take a painkiller
Why does this work?
Bet you weren’t expecting this on my top 10 tips!
This is my reason: When you reach a certain level of back pain, and your muscles start to spasm, you enter what we call a pain-spasm-pain cycle. Your muscles hurt, so they spasm, the spasm makes them hurt more, making them spasm at a greater intensity. You enter a vicious cycle. To break this cycle, you need to break the spasm or stop the pain. AN osteopapth can break a spasm for you with treatment, but if you are on your own, or at work, you can either take a pain killer, or a muscle relaxant. Then carry on with your stretches and muscle balancing exercises to maintain the relief.

The science behind these top 10 tips:
Back pain is avoidable. It is all about keeping the tension levels in your back muscles low.
Muscles have a ‘pain threshold’ of tension. Below a certain level of tension, you will experience little or no pain. Above a first level of tension you will experience pain. Above a second level of tension you will experience a back spasm. If you can keep the tension in your muscles low and under the pain threshold through out the day, by doing lots of little things that drop the tension levels, you stand a good chance of keeping your back pain free.