When Should You Consider Surgery?
  • You have tried other interventions such as physical therapy, exercises, medications and epidurals that haven't worked.
  • You have pain that shoots from the lower back to below the knee or is accompanied by numbness or tingling in your feet.
  • You feel you can no longer live with the pain you are experiencing.
Emotional Stress

When we're stressed, we tend to hold a lot of tension in our lower back, which, in turn, can severely exacerbate and prolong back pain.

What You Can Do:
  • Exercise both to relieve stress and strengthen back muscles.
  • Apply an ointment with camphor and menthol that activates cold receptors and desensitizes heat receptors to decrease pain.
  • Try willow bark. Although it's from the same root as aspirin, willow bark, which is sold at health food stores in capsule form, has been shown to be as effective or even more effective than aspirin and other pain relievers.
  • Get a massage to decrease tension across the shoulders and bring blood flow and oxygen to the area. Thai massage is particularly effective for back pain, because it stretches your body at the same time as you are massaged, teaching your body how to relax and release pain.
Daily Habits
Little things you do every day can add up to a big pain in the back.
  • High heels: Three-inch heels put 7 times more pressure on your feet than flat shoes, throwing off your posture and spinal alignment. In fact, nearly half of women who wear high heels will experience a foot injury that can cause back pain.
  • Heavy bags and thick wallets: Carrying more than 10% of your body weight (about 16 pounds) creates an imbalance in your posture and strains the muscles in your back and shoulders. Likewise, thick wallets inserted into your back pocket are wedges that disrupt the balance of the pelvis and spine and can actually contribute to arthritis.
  • Driving: People who drive cars for more than 4 hours a day are 6 times as likely to miss work due to back problems than those who drive under 2 hours daily.
  • Sitting: People who sit for their jobs have more back problems than those who do manual labor.
  • Slouching: Bad posture can put the equivalent of 100 extra pounds of stress on your lower back.
  • Lifting: The worst thing you can do for your hardworking back is to bend and twist while trying to lift something, which gives the disks in your back no support. That's when they can slip and pinch nerves.

Next: 8 ways to heal your back pain without medication


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