Lower Back Pain Relief Products
Lower back pain is a common issue that may develop in the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves in the back. The pain may be acute, meaning it’s only experienced for about six weeks or less. For some people, the discomfort is periodic and may arise sporadically for several weeks or months. Others may suffer from chronic lower back pain that persists for more than three months.
In comparison to other types of bodily discomfort, lower back pain is also one of the most frequently diagnosed forms of pain. Medical surveys even show that lower back pain causes over 2 million emergency room visits each year. Furthermore, recent statistics show that 10% of the world’s population suffers from lower back pain and more women experience back pain than men.
Mild lower back pain may resolve on its own if it was caused by a minor injury. Minimalizing additional stress or strain on the back can also help the pain subside quickly. However, if the pain persists or gradually worsens, there are different types of pain relief products that can help lessen the pain.
Lower Back Pain Relief Products
Mild, moderate, and even some severe forms of back pain may be treated with pain relief products. Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription-strength medications are usually very effective at reducing lower back pain. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin (Excedrin, Bayer), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and Naproxen (Aleve) help alleviate pain by targeting inflammation. Tylenol may also be taken for lower back pain, but this type of medicine is an analgesic that blocks pain signals instead of lowering inflammation.
Prescription-strength NSAIDs or corticosteroids taken orally are beneficial for moderate to severe pain that has persisted for longer periods. Corticosteroids help lessen pain and inflammation by suppressing an abnormal immune system response to damaged tissue. In some cases, corticosteroids can help completely eliminate inflammation or promote low levels of inflammation in the lower back. Decreased inflammation and healthier immune responses may result in little to no back pain.
Topical ointments and analgesics also offer pain relief, but it may be temporary. This includes creams that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, analgesics, or salicylates.
Common alternatives to oral pain relievers include:
- Voltaren – topical cream that contains NSAIDs and menthol
- Bengay, Zostrix, Capzasin (capsaicin) – topical analgesic creams
- Aspercreme, Sportscreme – topical creams that contains salicylates
Salicylates are plant-based compounds that decrease the production of specific proteins linked to pain and inflammation called prostaglandins.
Stronger pain-relieving creams may also contain hydrocortisone — a synthetic steroid or (corticosteroid) that reduces inflammation. Lidocaine is another powerful analgesic that helps alleviate pain by blocking pain signals from the nerves. According to medical reports, nerve pain (neuropathic pain) may be the underlying cause of chronic lower back pain for many adults. In such cases, lidocaine cream is especially useful because it disrupts the transfer of pain signals from nerves to the brain.
In general, topicals come in the form of creams, balms, and gels. Pain-relieving patches that adhere to the skin may also contain analgesics such as menthol or capsaicin. Patches can be placed directly on the inflamed region of the lower back and left in place for several hours. The active ingredients in topical creams and patches are absorbed through the skin to help soothe muscles and lessen nerve irritation.
Topicals that contain essential oils such as wintergreen, peppermint, birch, or turmeric may provide back pain relief as well. These types of oils have anti-inflammatory and muscle-soothing properties. However, essential oils should be diluted in carrier oils such as jojoba, almond, or olive oil before being placed on the skin to avoid irritation. Wintergreen and other types of menthol are frequently added to over-the-counter topical ointments that are specifically designed for muscle and back aches.
Another alternative is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), an organosulfur compound that helps lessen inflammation and promotes muscle recovery. It is sold as an oral supplement and a topical cream. Overall, there are a wide variety of pain relief products that effectively target lower back pain.
Exercises for Lower Back Pain
For most people, mild lower back pain resolves in a short period of time or quickly improves with the use of pain relievers. However, dynamic stretching exercises effectively target chronic pain that also causes mobility issues. For years it was believed that static stretching techniques were beneficial, but over the years research has shown that dynamic stretching methods improve mobility more efficiently.
Static stretching involves holding a stretch in a stationary position for a certain period of time (e.g., several seconds). However, static stretching exercises can overextend and exhaust muscles. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, involves slow, controlled, and consistent movements that allow muscles to gently engage their full range of motion. These types of movements typically mimic actions that will be performed during a modest workout or regular activity. For instance, leg pendulums and spinal rotations are optimal stretches that prepare the body for standing, running, twisting, or even lifting.
When performed properly, dynamic stretching exercises can relax back muscles, improve flexibility, and lessen lower back pain. This form of stretching is also associated with improved range of motion and physical performance for many people. In addition to reducing pain, dynamic stretching exercises help prepare the body for cardiovascular activity by warming up muscles and bones, increasing oxygen and blood flow, and preparing the heart and lungs for more rigorous exercise.
Dynamic stretching exercises that are beneficial for lower back pain include:
- Hip hinges
- Active hangs
- Standing Bicycle
- Band Lat Stretch
- Toe Touch Overhead Reach
- World's Greatest Stretch (Excellent stretch that targets all major muscles in the body)
These types of exercises should be repeated several times to gently stretch tense muscles in the lower back that may be causing discomfort. Tight, rigid back muscles are also more prone to reinjury. Therefore, an important way to support healing and prevent further injury is avoiding physical activity when the back muscles are cold and stiff. Tailoring stretching exercises to specific activities that will be carried out during the day promotes long-term improvement as well.
Physical Therapy for Lower Back Pain
If regular exercise, over-the-counter pain relievers, and periodically resting the back do not help resolve lower back pain, physical therapy is a useful approach that affords many individuals with positive outcomes. The purpose of physical therapy is to control, reduce, or relieve lower back pain by establishing a safe, guided treatment program that helps individuals achieve optimal physical health. If the lower back pain is causing limited activity, then the therapeutic routine will also incorporate strategies that aim at improving mobility.
After an initial consultation and thorough examination, a physical therapist will design an individualized treatment regimen to address the main factors that are contributing to lower back pain. The treatment plan may involve a combination of massage therapy, strength-training exercises, specialized equipment, and client education regarding proper self-care outside of the therapeutic setting. This typically includes learning how to maintain good posture while bending, standing, sitting, and lifting in order to prevent further harm.
The main goals of physical therapy include promoting a healthy biomechanical balance and optimizing an individual’s ability to function daily without discomfort. This entails alleviating painful tension, reducing mental and physical fatigue, increasing flexibility, and improving circulation through activity specific rehabilitation exercises. Techniques such as manual therapy or soft-tissue massage therapy and exercise training are commonly utilized approaches. However, therapists may also incorporate a combination of passive and active physical therapy methods that include:
- Laser therapy
- Aerobic conditioning
- Hot and cold therapy
- Passive range of motion
- Active range of motion (e.g., strength training, self-stretching)
These specific techniques are frequently performed because physical therapists aim at effectively treating the cause of the lower back pain, not simply the pain itself. Targeting the underlying cause (e.g., muscle tension, nerve irritation) is the best way to prevent the discomfort from returning. Furthermore, the combination of physical therapy and modest exercise is particularly beneficial toward promoting positive outcomes and sustainable changes in the body.
Although this form of therapeutic intervention has the ability to reduce or alleviate lower back pain of various causes, improvement is better sustained if a therapist demonstrates specific exercises that can be performed at the office or at home.
Consider a situation in which lower back pain developed as a result of an improper lifting technique. Physical therapy can help promote injury recovery, but if an individual doesn’t learn how to properly lift heavy items, the effects of the therapy won’t be sustained. Similarly, if flexibility and mobility starts to improve in the lower region of the back due to physical therapy, but the individual doesn’t continue to perform modest exercise at home, it will be difficult to experience long-term relief.
Another important role a physical therapist plays involves closely monitoring a client’s progress and updating the treatment regimen when it is deemed necessary. This type of individualized management approach supports a successful recovery and helps prevent the recurrence of lower back pain.
Physical Therapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain
Most physical therapy regimens focus on guiding individuals through careful exercises that support healing. Adhering to a specific therapeutic routine also reduces the probability and severity of future lower back pain issues. The types of exercises a physical therapist recommends depends on the problem that caused the pain and the individual’s overall level of physical conditioning. The exercise plan may include the following passive and active exercise techniques:
- Gait training
- Aquatic Therapy
- Functional retraining
- Strengthening exercises
- Core strengthening
- Active assisted range of motion
- Flexion and extension exercises
- Mechanical diagnosis and therapy (MDT) or the McKenzie Method
Passive movements are geared toward reducing lower back pain, improving blood flow, and restoring circulation to the affected region of the back. For instance, Aquatic Therapy involves performing low-intensity movements while the body is immersed in water to relieve pressure on muscles in the back. Water creates a natural resistance that boosts muscle strength while enabling the body to move comfortably.
Similarly, active exercises involve learning techniques that improve flexibility, mobility, strength, and range of motion. Performing active movements in the presence of a physical therapist prevents excessive strain from being placed on the spine. Furthermore, physical therapists often focus on teaching active exercises to individuals who need relief from lower back pain, but both passive and active therapeutic movements may provide the best outcomes.
For example, a heating pad may be used to relax back muscles prior to having an individual perform active exercises. Similarly, a therapist may place an ice pack on the lower back after the active exercise portion of the therapy session to help soothe soft tissue and back muscles.
Overall, therapeutic exercises are typically combined with massage techniques to target chronic pain and strengthen weak back muscles. Each exercise a therapist recommends is carefully demonstrated, as proper form is the key to relieving tension in stiff muscles, restoring proper balance, improving range of motion, and preventing ongoing back issues.
Lower back pain is a common health problem many adults face, but it doesn’t have to disrupt daily life. Over the counter pain relivers such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol as well as topical creams such as Voltaren, Bengay, Capzasin, and Aspercreme help alleviate lower back pain for many people.
This type of treatment can be combined with modest exercise, including dynamic stretching and strength-training exercises to promote long-term recovery. Although persistent lower back pain may limit activity, it is important to avoid becoming inactive as this can lead to stiffness and the worsening of symptoms.
For individuals whose lower back pain is not relieved by pain medication, occasional rest, and modest exercise, the physical therapists at FYZICAL can provide an individualized treatment plan that may lead to more positive outcomes. Our experienced therapists use a combination of passive and active techniques to pinpoint the problem, tackle the underlying issue, promote healing, and lessen the occurrence of future back pain.
By gaining a better understanding of the body and receiving assistance from highly trained physical therapists at FYZICAL, many people can effectively control or eliminate their lower back pain altogether.
FYZICAL offers a wide variety of physical therapy services by qualified providers across the U.S. To find a FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center near you, visit our website at FYZICAL.com. Our highly skilled therapy providers are 100% focused on your optimal health so you can Love Your Life®!
To learn more about how FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers can help you, download our free e-book.