Following a slip on the ice, a night of sleeping in an awkward position, or perhaps after bending over to pick up your son or grandson, you may feel a sharp pain in your lower back. This pain is likely from an overstretched or torn muscle, known as a muscle strain.

If you’re like most people, your first response to low back pain is to ignore it and hope it goes away. Although it may go away for a time, it will most likely return if ignored.

Low back pain is often your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong. Luckily there are simple things you can do every day that will relieve your pain the natural way.

1. Sit Up While Reading or Watching TV

Lying on the couch, watching TV, head propped up on pillows…

We can probably all relate to this habit, maybe you’re doing it right now. This has become such a regular and frequent position for so many that it begins to mold your muscles and joints.

Although this position may be enjoyable and comfortable for the short term, it puts a lot of strain on the upper body. Rather than lying down, try sitting up in a chair or on the couch, keeping your head aligned with your trunk. This will allow you to maintain your lower back curve while putting less stress on your upper body.

2. Apply Moist Heat

Ice vs. heat has been a long-debated topic in pain relief.

If your pain comes from a joint or the area right around it such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, or knee, use ice as inflammation is likely involved. If the pain is coming from muscles as pains in the neck, upper and lower back typically are, use heat.

The best way to apply heat is with wet heat because your skin absorbs it where it can relax your muscles. More importantly, wet heat will eventually decrease in temperature, making sure you don’t overdo it.

Here are some recommended methods:

  • Warm showers
  • Warm wet cloths
  • Hot water bottles

3. Sleep on Your Stomach or Back

We spend almost 3,000 hours asleep every year!

It should be no surprise that the position we sleep in can have a huge impact on our muscles and joints.

By following these simple sleep guidelines you can drastically reduce your daily aches and pains.

  1. Don’t sleep on your side. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your shoulder and hip joints; Curling your legs shortens the muscles in your lower back, but this can cause a lot of pain once you wake up and stretch the next day.
  2. Sleep on your stomach or back. This minimizes pressure on your joints and allows your back muscles to extend and relax.

4. Do Not Cross Your Legs

Children rarely do this, but adults do this all the time.

Why? Crossing our legs is a more comfortable position for the misaligned hips and legs of adulthood.

Misalignment in the hips forces the muscles of the lower back into unnatural positions, which can cause pain when we go to use these muscles in our everyday activities.

While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor with your toes pointing straight ahead. When you lie down, keep your legs straight and uncrossed at the ankles. These positions will help to align your hips and keep strain off of your lower back muscles.

5. Take Movement Breaks Every 20 Minutes

The number one cause of lower back pain is simply the things we do every day. Whether you have an office job or a job that requires manual labor, the things we do every day mold our bodies. When our muscles and joints are molded into unnatural position day after day, it can be painful to adjust back to the normal positions required for everyday tasks like walking and lifting.

It is important to give our body a break and get up and move every 20 minutes. Even if it’s just a short walk to the water cooler or printer, your back will thank you.