Expert Advice

How can I ease lower-back pain?

Drugs and surgery aren't always necessary.

How can I ease lower-back pain?
Pin it Brian Cairns

An orthopedic surgeon says: While everyone experiences degeneration of the discs in the spine, this process may be accelerated due to genetics, sudden injury or too much sitting. Treatment: If your pain is acute (sudden pain that results from an injury or even something as simple as sneezing), rest, alternate between heat and ice packs and gently stretch. If your pain is recurrent or chronic (lasting six to eight weeks or longer), the keys to successful treatment are avoiding repetitive injury and maintaining core strength and flexibility through appropriate exercise, such as gentle yoga and Pilates. I also recommend physical therapy or a personal trainer for both short-term treatment and to help patients learn how to make healthy habits a permanent part of their lives. — Daryll C. Dykes, M.D., attending spine surgeon at Twin Cities Spine Center in Minneapolis


A yoga therapist says: Chronic pain sufferers often are frustrated and depressed; they feel betrayed by their bodies. Because yoga therapy has an emotional component, it can help rebuild a sense of confidence. Treatment: In yoga therapy, slow and conscious breathing is incorporated with postures to calm the nervous system, which in turn reduces paincausing inflammation in the body. The poses also increase flexibility and strengthen your deep back and core muscles, creating a more supported, resilient spine. A helpful posture for most is Cat-Cow: Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. On an inhale, gently drop your belly and gaze upward, keeping the back of your neck straight; on an exhale, push into the ground with your hands, round your spine and tuck your chin. — Robin Rothenberg, C.Y.T., author of The Essential Low Back Program


A chiropractor says: Joints around your spine can become restricted slowly (as a result of sitting for hours in front of a computer) or quickly (as a result of injury). When joint motion is restricted, it creates muscle and ligament tightness; when joint motion is restored by a chiropractic adjustment, the increased mobility can stimulate the nervous system to block pain. Reduction in pain then causes muscles to relax, enabling faster rehabilitation. Treatment: A chiropractic adjustment stretches tight ligaments to improve joint motion and position. But you may not need an adjustment; chiropractors also ease pain associated with back problems by using passive therapies such as massage, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation and even acupuncture. Often, just one visit can help; four to six visits is the average. — Larry Frieder, D.C., chiropractic doctor in Boulder, Colo.