Uncomfortable back pain flare-ups can come out of nowhere and totally ruin your day. While you should get professionally assessed by a doctor if you suffer from back pain often, there are a couple of things that you can do at home to provide temporary relief.
In a recent Instagram post, Dr. Leada Malek, PT, DPT, SCS, explained how focusing on your breathing and lying for a few minutes in varying positions can alleviate different kinds of back pain. Essentially, there are a few movements the lumbar spine can make. It can flex, which means bend forward, extend, which means arch backward, bend at the side, and rotate, Dr. Malek said.
"When there is an acute injury to either the [intervertebral] disc, facet joint, or even impingement on the nerve root, certain positions may be more comfortable to lay in," she told POPSUGAR. People's pain can manifest as either extension-sensitive, meaning discomfort when the back is arched backward, or flexion-sensitive, meaning discomfort when the back is in a rounded position.
So, for example, lying with your legs straight in front of you could be uncomfortable for an extension-sensitive person because it may cause your back to arch slightly. A simple fix for this could be to prop your knees up with some pillows.
Dr. Malek broke down the different positions she demonstrated in the Instagram video for POPSUGAR, including step-by-step instructions. She suggests easing into the positions, starting by trying each one for less than a minute to see how your back handles it. If you are comfortable, you can stay in each position for two to three minutes before switching. You should not spend more than five or six minutes in any of them with an acute back pain flare-up.
Legs Propped Up
- Lie on your back and place a pillow under your knees. This will create a mild bend in the knee and could decrease the chances of your back falling into slight extension.
- You can add more pillows to increase the height, even rising your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle.
- Try to keep a slight bend in your knees as they are above your hips.
- The higher the legs, the more flexed your back will be, so play around to find your happy medium.
Blocks Under Hips (Prone)
- Place two yoga blocks underneath your pelvis. You can cover the blocks with a blanket for comfort.
- Rest in this position and focus on breathing through your ribs.
- This position may be better for people who are extension-sensitive.
Blocks Under Hips (Supine)
- Place one or two yoga blocks under your hips and lie on your back with your knees bent.
- This is also better for people who are extension-sensitive.
Pillow Under Belly
- Lie on your stomach with your pillow under your belly.
- Prop your ankles up on another pillow or foam roller to float your ankles.
- This position is similar to the block under the hips, meaning ideal for people who find comfort in a rounded back, but less intense.
- Lie on your side and stack 1-2 pillows, depending on thickness, lengthwise between your knees and ankles. This will place the hip in a neutral position, which can decrease pressure on the low back.
- This position could work for either flexion or extension-sensitive people.
In addition to lying in these positions, you should simultaneously focus on your breathing, Dr. Malek said. When dealing with pain or stress, she explained, "people have a tendency to shift from breathing from the diaphragm and relaxed shoulders, to breathing from the chest and a tense neck."
"You can try [relaxing your breathing] by breathing through the diaphragm and emphasizing the ribs expanding 360 degrees," she recommended, "or placing one hand on the stomach and one hand on the chest and emphasizing the lower hand rising and falling with each breath, minimizing chest rise."
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