Treating lower back pain in prosthetic users is often approached as a separate issue; most focus only on the anatomical problems of the lower back. However, there are various options for relieving lower back pain, which means examining other areas of the body that have a connection with the muscles of the lower back.
In this article, we take a look at the various ways lower back pain can be minimized, managed, or relieved.
Work on your core
The core is a vital piece of the puzzle; the muscles located in the abs and back play a critical role in supporting the lower spine. However, during a typical day, these muscles are not worked out. They need to be targeted through specific exercise moves.
To strengthen your core, perform simple exercises such as sit-ups and leg lifts. If there’s absolutely no time to squeeze in a core workout, you can replace your office chair with an exercise ball and sit on it for at least 30 minutes a day.
Stretch Your Hamstrings
The hamstrings, located at the back of the thighs, are another set of muscles that contribute a lot to lower back pain. When the hamstrings are too tight, the lower back and sacroiliac joints—which connect the sacrum with the pelvis—tend to be stressed, which results in more pain.
Step 1: Lie down on a flat surface. Make sure your body is straight.
Step 2: Lift your residual limb and put your hands behind your thighs.
Step 3: Straighten your residual limb. Hold this position for a few seconds.
Slowly lower your residual limb back to the starting position. Repeat on
your other leg/residual limb.
As a prosthetic user, tight hamstrings will rotate your pelvis backward (posteriorly) causing you to lean forward to maintain standing balance.
Tight hip flexors have a similar effect on the lower back for above-knee prosthetic users, creating hyper-lordosis or leaning back to compensate for tight hips.
Loosening up tight hamstrings can be done by stretching the hamstrings twice a day.
Prosthetic height and alignment
Schedule a visit with your prosthetist to double check the height and alignment of your prosthesis and make any necessary height or socket adjustments. As we discussed in our alignment article, socket flexion and extension can profoundly affect your lower back.
Insufficient socket flexion for an above-knee prosthetic user can create a situation that causes you to hyperextend your back with every step.
Hyperextending or flexing a socket for below-knee prosthetic users can potentially change its height creating a leg length issue and consequently low back pain.
Back braces are great, but only for limited use. Wearing a back brace helps simulate the actions of your abdominals. When often worn, your abdominals will become progressively weaker, causing further degradation of your lower back. This is because your abs don't have to work as hard because the brace is working for them.
Our bodies are equipped with natural feel-good hormones called endorphins, and when endorphins are released, they work just as well as most over-the-counter painkillers. This is because endorphins prevent the brain from registering pain signals. Furthermore, these happy hormones can help alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which are associated with chronic back pain.
One way to release these feel-good hormones is through aerobic exercise, also known as cardio. Brisk walking, jogging, spinning, or swimming are all great endorphin-releasing options.
Get enough sleep
We all know that sleep is essential to maintain or improve physical and mental health. However, not all people get enough sleep, and as a result, health issues surface. In the United States alone, problems caused or exacerbated by sleep deprivation costs the economy over $411 billion annually.
Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of chronic back pain sufferers have some type of sleep disorder. This can also be because pain is the leading cause of insomnia. Many back pain sufferers are caught in a vicious cycle.
If this is you, we suggest seeking the help of sleep experts so your body can work on healing itself naturally.
Use cold and hot packs
Cold and hot packs may seem too simple a remedy, but the pain reduction capacity of this technique has been proven. To reduce inflammation and relieve nerve spasms use a cold pack. To stimulate blood flow and inhibit the pain messages being sent to the brain, use a hot pack.
Engage your brain
There might be a way to distract your brain from processing the pain-inducing signals. The mind plays a huge part in how we process and perceive pain. Simply put, pain is more complicated than just a sensation.
You might want to train your brain to ignore or reduce the pain signals, and you can do this through relaxation, such as meditation and self-hypnosis, and distraction, such as watching a favorite show or movie or talking to a friend. This technique is going to take a lot of practice, so patience is required.
Do things that make you feel good
The techniques outlined in this article are based on a simple yet powerful principle: countering the pain by doing things that make you feel physically and mentally good. By putting the focus on the good things in life, you can make the pain more tolerable as it shifts your attention someplace else other than the pain you feel on your lower back.
However, it’s also best to remember that every person is unique. What might work for one person may not necessarily work on you. So, make your way through this list, and see which one is effective.Do you suffer from lower back pain? What things do you do to minimize or manage the pain? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.