Many people suffer from back pain on a regular basis and can manage it with minimal disruption to their lives, but every year I see several people that have to cancel vacation plans because of acute back pain. Acute back pain can come on quickly and be debilitating. Most of the time this is avoidable, so here are 5 things that can be done to prevent your back from “going out” either before or on vacation.
2. Don’t ignore new buttock or leg pain Buttock or leg pain that is new or intensified is a sign that your back is inflamed and unhappy. You can be sure that packing, loading the car, and driving will make this worse. Identify why the pain is worse and what you should do about it before vacation. Back pain is easily treatable before it gets bad, but once it progresses it can be a long road to recovery; especially if you are facing an 8-hour drive home from the beach before you can address it.
3. Use a lumbar roll Lumbar rolls are used in the small of the back to help keep a good curve in the spine while you drive. The lumbar support that is already in your car is not enough! Below is a picture of what a lumbar roll looks like. If you don’t want to buy one then roll up a towel and put some tape around it to keep it from unrolling. Directions for use: Scoot all your butt all the way back in the chair, lean forward, and put the roll right in the small of your back at your belt line. If its uncomfortable you can periodically take it out and put it back
4. When you get to the beach stop and smell the ocean Often when people arrive at their destination, the first thing they want to do is unload the car. After sitting for a long time, the discs in the low back will be more susceptible to injury from lifting. Get out of the car, walk around, and do some of the back bends that I advocate for at the top. This can prevent injury and make your back like you a lot more.
5. If you are having pain that isn’t getting better…See a PT There is no reason to live with pain and limit your activities for the summer. If you are having pain in the low back that isn’t improving then see a physical therapist that can show you how to get it better. Many of these problems have easy solutions and can be improved with home stretching. In most states, including West Virginia, you do not need a doctor’s referral for PT.
John Oxley PT,
DPT, OCS, CSCS, Cert. MDT
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