Please see this video on the anatomy of the lower back.
Let us say you have had a back injury; you are seeing a Chiropractor for treatment and advice; but now you would like to maximise your recovery alongside your treatment.
There are basically 3 stages of recovery:
1. Acute phase
During this phase you should be resting, being very gentle with your back and trying not to do anything too strenuous. It is also important not to rest completely as it is important to keep nutrients flowing to your spinal discs, a process called imbibition and this requires movement.
My advice is that as long as you have any pain at all, use ice on the affected area for 15 minutes (use an ice pack or bag of peas/sweetcorn with a thin towel around it) whenever you are sore, such as, when you overdo something or after you get treatment. This not only reduces swelling in the painful area but it also helps to flush toxins out of your system and ease the pain.
Many people find it more comfortable to sit or lie on harder surfaces. Lying on your back with some pillows under your knees is a good way to take the stress off your lower back. Proper posture when bending and limiting major twisting or sharp motions is also important.
2. Rehabilitation phase
Once the acute phase has passed, you can start working on healing your back for the long-term. You may still suffer from a little pain with different movements or activities. This is normal. So long as the pain and loss of function is not too severe, then rehabilitation is now needed.
This stage helps to build up the muscles around the area of your injury, which in turn helps to keep your back in proper alignment and also helps to prevent further injury. Suggested exercise includes: swimming, using a gym ball, yoga, walking and generally improving your core muscles (those deep inside your stomach and back area). The important thing is to keep your spine moving.
Proper posture when moving is, as always, still important. The more muscle tone (core muscles) you have, the less you will be prone to hurting yourself when you misjudge a situation, for example, lifting heavy groceries or picking your toddler out of their cot.
3. Maintenance phase
By this stage, you should be pain free for most of the time but it is important that you keep up with all your hard work to protect your back. If you want a healthy back you must look after it; keeping your spinal bones in correct alignment is key. Remember that most issues develop over time and it was misalignment of your spinal column over time that caused your initial symptoms. I know that you definitely don’t want to go back there.
So, to keep your back on track, the following are important:
Proper alignment of the spinal column – remember to have regular top up chiropractic adjustments to keep everything aligned and to prevent further nerve interference.
Exercise – keep up the hard work from your rehabilitation phase, even if you can only manage to do it once a week, it is better than nothing but keep your spine moving.
Treat your back with respect – use ice when you have aches, listen to your body and rest when you need to and, as always, watch your posture, particularly when lifting, bending and twisting.
If you follow this advice, your recovery should be much quicker and you will be able to get back to enjoying life again.