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Low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting around 25% of people. In most cases, LBP is mild and will go away on its own. Sometimes that is not the case, and LBP becomes a chronic issue.

Studies show that the most effective treatments for low back pain do not include surgery or drugs. Noninvasive treatments such as physical therapy have been proven to be more effective. According to a JAMA study, many doctors are over treating back pain. Slowly the mindset is moving away from surgical and opioid treatments towards those that are more holistic and less invasive. In the meantime, LBP sufferers are wondering how best to combat their pain. Here are six tips for addressing LBP that you can begin incorporating today.

  1. Keep moving. Low back pain can worsen through inactivity. Mobility is essential to function. Staying in bed for longer than a day has been shown to worsen symptoms, not improve them.
  2. Get help. When pain lasts longer than a few days, it’s time to schedule an appointment for an evaluation. Initial physical therapy evaluations do not require a referral, which means you can schedule directly with the PT of your choice. If further authorization or information is needed, the PT will refer you to a doctor who will become an important part of your care team.
  3. Learn about the cause of your pain. Understanding the source of your LBP can help you manage your symptoms and prevent future injury. An essential part of a physical therapist’s job is to educate you on the biomechanics of your body and identifying the cause of your pain. They then provide instructions for improving mobility and function through a customized program that may include a variety of noninvasive treatments.
  4. Try yoga. Yoga is an excellent option for helping improve strength and mobility by loosening compressed tissues surrounding the spine. The practice of yoga combines specific poses with the breath. This creates a calming effect, which is excellent for helping LBP sufferers. Depending on the cause of LBP, yoga may not be advised until joint mobility is improved. Studies suggest that yoga for LBP works best when performed in combination with physical therapy.
  5. Avoid opioids. Rather than masking the pain, address the cause. Numerous studies have shown that opioids are ineffective as a long-term treatment for LBP. The risk for addiction is not worth the temporary relief opioids can provide.
  6. Get Rest. If your LBP is preventing you from getting enough sleep each night, it is time to schedule an evaluation. A lack of sleep exacerbates symptoms and can lead to other health issues if not addressed.

If you are suffering from acute or chronic low back pain, schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist. Understanding the cause of your pain is an essential first step in recovery.