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What Do You Do To Relieve Lower Back Pain? 410

Jester writes: "I'm sure there's a whole bunch of you people out there who have lower back pains from hours of hunching over a keyboard and coding away. How bad is it? Have you been to a chiropractor? Physical therapist? Taking obscene amounts of painkillers? Acupuncture? Or have you become accustomed to the pain?"
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What Do You Do To Relieve Lower Back Pain?

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  • I think I can vouch for the knees. Between the ages of 16 and 19 or so, I used to bike everywhere (even up moderate hills) in 10th gear (10 speed). I used to get sore knees a lot (and still do occasionally), though I think most of the recent sore knees was while still living in Wellington, New Zealand (on some of those hills, even 1st gear on my 18 speed mountain bike was hard work). Now, my 6km (~4mi) ride to work is done in a leasurly 20-30 minutes (depends on the wind). Probably subconsious (I'm lazy anyway:), but while I still get sore knees now and then, they're not as bad.

    Bill - aka taniwha

  • by Bill Currie ( 487 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @08:13AM (#193430) Homepage
    and buy a bike :)

    I've actually never owned a car; my bike is my only set of wheels (I can drive, but my license expired 6 years ago). While I still get the occational lower back pain (and definity upper: bike riding doesn't exercise every muscle in your body), it's nowhere near as bad as when I was catching the bus to work (7km with 140m hills gets tiring, but I'm no longer in Wellington, so that's impoved*:) and I had almost constant back aches.

    As others have said: exercise, exersise, sexercise (hey, can you think of a more fun way to exercise?:)

    * I now ride 6km though snow :)

    Bill - aka taniwha

  • Oh, I meant to say: I do this routine four times per week. I typically try to do it five times per week, skipping only Wednesday and Friday evenings, but typically something interferes and I miss another day.
  • by Phaid ( 938 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:53AM (#193433) Homepage
    I used to have chronic lower back pain, which came in cycles. I'd be fine for a month, then suddenly it would strike and get progressively worse until by the third day I couldn't stand up straight.

    About the same time this was becoming unacceptable, I also decided I was getting too flabby, couldn't dance long enough without getting winded, etc. So I started going to the gym. After several months, I've gotten a pretty good routine: 40 minutes of Precor elliptical cross-trainer, followed by a "total-body" weight workout of 3 sets of 15 reps at low weight on 8 machines, followed by about 100 crunches.

    Since the first month of this workout, I haven't had any back problems at all. And I feel better, look better, and can dance longer. Must be working...
  • ...and in my experience, the most important part is number 2 in your list.

    I had serious back pain 8 or 9 years ago. I started doing some simple excercises that made it go away. Now I swim a mile (backstroke or crawl) twice a week, and I never had any trouble again.

    Keep in mind that not all sports are equal...jogging is not particularly good for your back or knees, nor is cycling (my second sport). Your physician should be able to suggest good excercises if you want to do something other than swimming.

  • Ah, quackwatch... tops my list of 'most annoying sites on the web'.

    Talk about a man with a chip on his shoulder. If there's a site more dependant on misdirection and strawman arguments, I haven't found it.

    Take everything he says with large chunks of salt, and remember that he has a huge axe to grind.

    Just as a teaser, he'll tell you all about the dangers of Vitamin C.

    Don Negro

  • by rlk ( 1089 )
    A regular program of exercise, including strength training, should help tremendously, although not overnight and you do have to be careful not to overdo it initially (that can lead to more problems).

    You can always start with simple walking, although if you're really badly out of shape it's best to see a doctor first before even doing very much of that. Gradually build up the distance and speed. For strength training, it's best to discuss it with a trainer to at least get started; overdoing that can really cause problems.

    I personally like using the Concept II indoor rower. It gives a fantastic cardio workout in a relatively short amount of time (since it's using your whole body; most other cardiovascular exercise uses primarily the lower body exercises), and on the higher resistance settings it also gives some amount of strength training. But it does work the back quite hard, and it's not something to start with if you're out of shape. Good form is important; bad form can really hurt the back.
  • This is the biggest single thing.

    or don't hunch over! if you need glasses to see that far, get them, for crying out loud . . .


  • I think my qualification as a lifeguard/gym supervisor have lapsed, so consider this advice fully disclaimed, but the problem that many people have, even physically fit people, is a lack of what we call "core strength". This means development of the muscles in the lower abdomen and back. A standard sit-up won't work the lower abs, and the lower back exercises are boring and look silly, so most people don't want to learn or do them.

    Good core strength means good posture and massively lowered risk of back pain, especially as you get older. Speak to your local physio or gym instructor. If you can't, try swimming, it's the best all round exercise and it will work the muscles you need.

    Failing that, get a good chair. Loads of dotcoms going bust will mean plenty of Aeron's on the market :0)

  • I know I had the same problem, constant back pain, getting hurt when I would be lifting something heavy in a bad position...

    My solution? Do some exercise, go to a gym or lift some weights at home. Now everyday, I spend 5 minutes every mornings doing some light exxercises and my pains are gone.
    We are not only made of a brain, our body has some needs too. We can't just forget about it!

  • You have to hit this on a lot of fronts. I'd recommend a chiropractor after you've tried a few of these. When you go, make sure you get a chiropractor who doesn't want to see you, who bends over backwards (no pun intended) to give you alternatives to work on outside of the office.
    • Stretches. Regular, routine stretching will make a big difference. Try a few of these, daily:
      1. Lay on your back, lift your left knee towards your nose. You can put your hands behind your knee to pull a little bit closer, but don't bounce or overstress. This helps pull the muscles in your lumbar region.
      2. Crunches. 'nuff said. Strengthens the abs nicely to help hold you up.
      3. "Superman." This is hard. Lay flat on your face with your arms out in front of you (like Superman flying, thus the name). Now, without bending your legs or using any muscles other than your lower back and buttocks, lift your legs off the ground. Hurts like hell.
      4. "Bridge-up." This is one from junior high floor gymnastics. It's roughly the first step to a backbend, and you have to be really careful. Lay on your back with your knees up and your arms curved back over your head, so your fingers point towards your body. Then push yourself upwards. This is a real good stretch and also strengthens those nasty wrist muscles.
    • Get a little exercise. If you're a little bit flabby, that extra weight can really hurt. Walk fifteen minutes a day. Try to get into a regular swimming routine. Lift some weights--go for lighter weights with many reps; the goal is to move the muscles and, frankly, your back, because part of the problem is that your back isn't used to moving around.
    • Consider your seating. Get decent lumbar support. How is your spine curving? I'm really in a bind here, because I'm 6'4". I can't fit into the world. Chairs are too low, so I can't sit with my feet flat and my spine curves. Car seats which curve forward "above the shoulders" push right on my shoulder blades. For the latter, I have a sheepskin pad which fits under those curves nicely so I'm not arched over. But overall, think about these things
    • I second what a previous poster said: glucosamine is great stuff. Name brands will set you back $1 a pill. House brands are maybe 20 cents. I haven't noticed a difference.
    • Decent arch support. You can buy generic arch supporters, which help. But ultimately, it's worth going to your chiropractor and getting custom supports. $200, but it's worth it. Inadequate arch support tilts and rolls your hips, messing with your back. Not good.
    • Cervical pillows. $40 or so for a foam-core pillow which supports your neck without tilting your head. This will help immensely.
    • Chiropractic. A really good chiropractor will help you with advice on all of the other things listed here, and do more than just adjust. But a good adjustment does help--the goal is to have them as rarely as possible.
  • I take Aikibudo lessons. It's a martial arts axed on defense, and the total disembodiment of the attacker. Some references can be found here [].

    The practical thing about this is that sometimes, you have to be the attacker so that someone else can defend during the lessons.

    When you're being trown 5 feet away on the mats and land on your back, you tend to forget lower back pains.

    It's the best back massage possible, I tell you! And then, you get all the adrenaline rush too.

    Class is tonight... Woohoo!

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • In addition, make sure your bed isn't really old.

    I used to have chronic back spasms. Then a bed salesman pointed out that older beds can cause back probrlems, so I did some research, and Consumer Reports (among others) agreed. So I bought a new bed.

    Boom. I haven't had a really bad day since.

    Note that we had a 3 year old futon at the time. Futons as used in Japan are routinely aired out and moved around, unlike most futons used by Americans. This keeps them fluffy, and supportive.
  • The easiest and sfaest way of achieving (1) and, circumstances permitting, some of (2) is to make sure that at least 60% of what you eat is raw.

    I can see how eating raw things can cause you to lose weight -- after all, cooking oil has a lot of calories, but exercise? Or are you suggesting we should run after and catch the animals we eat as well?
  • Agreed! I am one of those that hunches over the keyboard 12-16 hours a day. I always used to have back pain, especially through my shoulders and just inside my right shoulder blade. I joined a Masters swim team [] about 5 months ago, and haven't had *any* backpain since. Not even once.
  • I'm not a doctor, so take this for what it's worth.

    Masking the pain is a bad long term solution. You're doing something bad to your body, and it's letting you know about it. Pay attention.

    You didn't mention it, but I suspect that you're overweight. I'm not giving you a hard time -- I'm overweight too. But if you are, and you have back problems, you've got to lose weight. Everything else is a band aide.

    The other thing you have to do is strengthen the muscles in your back. Yoga and stretching exercices are good for this.

    In the short term a chiropractor will probably make you feel better. I'm typing this through clenched teeth, because those quacks refuse to follow the scientific method, they don't run tests, and lots of them claim they can cure things like ear infections through "spinal cord manipulations". But I have friends who have had positive results.

    Fundamentally, you need to reduce the load on your back muscles (lose weight and find a better chair that helps you balance more naturally), and improve the ability of your muscles to handle the load (yoga and stretching).

    Anything else is just going to make it easier for you to keep abusing your body, and will lead to grief in the long run.

    In today's economy, a smart person with skills is insane to mangle their body for their job. Coal miners in Pennsylvania 75 years ago didn't have many options. You do. Geeking just isn't worth it.
  • 1. Lose weight. [...] 2. Excercise. [...] 3. Posture.

    The easiest and sfaest way of achieving (1) and, circumstances permitting, some of (2) is to make sure that at least 60% of what you eat is raw. This fixes and/or helps to fix a heck of a lot more than back pain.

  • Concentrate a bit to your body, stretch a little and listen to yourself. Daily exercise, not too hard, just to notice and to learn paying attention to what's good and what's bad for your back. You could do any sports, but I've got so bad an attitude against sports that this was practically the only option for me :)

    I am an irrational number, not a mere free man!

  • Concentrate a bit to your body, stretch a little and listen to yourself. Daily exercise, not too hard, just to notice and to learn paying attention to what's good and what's bad for your back. You could do any sports, but I've got so bad an attitude against sports that this was practically the only option for me :)

    I am an irrational number, not a mere free man!
  • Herman Miller Aeron Chair []

    I work out of the house, and bought one of these a few years ago. It really is amazing.
  • I don't have problems often, but when I do, over-the-counter Orudis KT (which is ketoprofen) works amazingly well. If you have problem often, I'd recommend a chiropractor.
  • Let's say this. At various points, I have had significant back pain that didn't seem to be just going away. I went to a Chiropractor, who adjusted my back, and I felt immediate relief. Not feeling obligated to do any long-term adjustments, I went on with my life.

    Are you saying that this relief was provided by quackery? If so, more power to the ducks.

    As an additional reference point, while I never went this route, my father went to a "neurologist" or whatever the official MD is that is supposed to help deal with such things when he had similar problems. This "non quack" did nothing more than drug him up so that he couldn't feel the pain (and couldn't really function correctly in other ways). Getting sick of the drugs, he went to a Chiropractor, and got fixed up.

    So tell me again, who's the quack?

  • Excercise, get a good chair [], and spend less time hunched over a keyboard and monitor coding.
  • That's strange. I'm using Nutscrape Communicator 4.76 under FreeBSD and I didn't have any problems at all.

    It doesn't matter. There are a lot of great chairs on the market. Don't sit on a folding chair all day and then wonder why your back hurts. And if you work in an office, make some noise if you have a crap chair. The company I work for just outfitted their new facility with mid-line ($750) Herman-Miller chairs. I wouldn't buy one for my home office, but they're nice.

  • Sex is certanly one of the ones I would suggest, of course, it is a little difficult without a partner. ;-) But, it is a form of exercise that stresses your abdominal muscles, and that is good. In fact, one of the things that can help your back is beefing up your abs.

    I used to suffer from crippling back pain, even as far back as elementary school. Some days I could not walk. 7 years ago I took up Kung Fu, and I have found that as long as I make the conditioning classes (many crunches in those) I never have back pain. Now, I go to the Gym as well as Kung Fu, and, seeing as it is summer, I spend 3-4 days a week Whitewater Kayaking.

    Personally, I beleive that there is no better excercise than Whitewater Kayaking for your core muscles. (Of course, I played so hard yesterday, I am having trouble sitting straight today! :)

    It all comes down to complementing your muscle groups. If your back is hurting there is a good chance that your abs are weak and thus your posture is off - hurting your back. Excercising opposite muscles to the pain is always a good idea.

    If sex (with someone other than yourself!) gives you a good ab workout (it should!), it will help your back, and hey, who ISN'T relaxed after the orgasm?

    So, there is my take on the situation. I use all of the above. (Well, except the sex part recently, but I do have a date on Tuesday. No really! A /. geek actually got a *DATE*. That alone should be a story on /.)

    So in summary. EXCERCISE! Find something you enjoy, that also stresses your core muscle groups. (Just be aware that some stretches can worsen back pain, such as "touching your toes" check with someone who knows.
  • True, you should give surfing a shot. Alot like swimming but for longer periods time and harder bursts. In addition, any type of sport where balance is required (kayacking, water/snow skiing, etc...) your abs will get worked. In turn your back will feel better.

    I am too far from the ocean (central British Columbia) But as you are probably aware, you can surf your boat in whitewater too! I was on some waves yesterday that I bet you could get a longboard onto, and *STAY* on for at least 15 min.
    My longest surf in a kayak was over 20 min (before my buddies came over and knocked me off the wave for being a wave hog! :)

    I have given thought to heading out to the Long Beach area (Victoria BC) With my yak for some ocean surfing, but you surfer dudes hate us kayak guys! =)

    I should give it a try sometime, and you should search out areas that have standing waves that you could lock a longboard onto!
  • You have back pain? Congratulation, it's because your back muscles are way too weak. And not only your back muscles. Same goes with your arms, shoulders, legs etc. Humans were really not designed to sit still. We were made for hard work.

    So get your butt to the gym and start lifting weiights. It will strengthen your muscles and you will feel a lot better. However, don't be a fool and lift wrong. Study a bit so you know the right form. Read through Krista's page [] to find excellent advice and examples of both good and bad form. And if you're put off by the page being Women's Weightlifting Links, I assure you that this girl advices women to work out as men. And you can find a link to more masculine sites from her page anyway. on usenet is also a great source of information.

    The basic move to strengthen your back and legs is squat. Start without any weights whatsoever. Then keep your weight on your heels and lower yourself as low as you can and raise back up. I'm talking ass to the grass style here, not 90 degrees or shins to parallel. Add the bar when you get used to the move and then start working out. Don't add so much weight that you don't feel like lowering yourself all the way down. Also, you should be able to lift 8-10 reps.

    Other good movements are deadlifts, good mornings, stiff legged dead lifts and side bends. There's a lot to choose from but do use free weights. While machines look nice and safe, they don't give as good results and you can also risk injury as the movements are not natural.

    Also, don't be afraid of asking. You'll see big and strong guys at the gym. When you see someone who has apparently been lifting for years, do ask for advice and let him check your form. And don't be ashamed of not lifting as much as he does. After all, he's been lifting for ages and you're just starting your journey towards good health and strong body.

  • "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

    Bluto WAS in Pre-Med, after all.

  • Stretching by Bob and Jean Anderson [] seems to be the book on various kinds of stretches for flexibility, strength, etc.
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:45AM (#193485)
    The numer 1 reason nerds in chairs develop back/neck/wrist problems is NOT because of bad posture, but because of lack of exercise; bad posture comes in second. If you have sufficiently developed back muscles/wrist muscles, you simply don't get these problems. Sitting does NOT put an extraordinary strain on a healthy strong back. And we're not talking arnold schwazernegger here.....just ride a bike a few days a week, or go to a gym, or something...
  • Excepting medical advice on a technology website is a dubious way to solve your problem.

    Having said that, I have a little experience in this area so I will give my OWN experience.

    I woke up one day with HORRIBLE lower backpain that got to the point that I would program standing up(!).

    I am now active again and here is what I did:

    1) Tossed the futon, bought a REAL bed.

    2) Only use lumbar-suppourted chairs, bought an obus-forme for other chairs.

    3) SAW A DOCTOR.

    4) Took anti-inflamatories to deal with the pain and the doctor gave me an excercise regime to strengthen the area.

    I am now pretty much 'cured'.

    A couple of things I learned:

    Doctors don't really know much about lower back pain, it is more art than science so you may have to try more than one anti-inflammatory before you hit pay dirt.

    Nothing will probably show up on an X-Ray.

    Your mother was right, posture is important. ;)

    When you screw up your back it is pretty much screwed for life so you have to be diligent with it.

    -Hope that helps.

  • Anti-inflammatories are NOT pain killers, and that is not what I said. I said I took them for the pain, e.g. when the swelling went down the pain subsided, then I could excercise and regain my strength. Pills are not a panacea, but neither is chiropracty, the difference being one doesn't cost $100/hr three days a week for the rest of your life.
  • A good back massage can work wonders. Not just a through-the-clothes shoulder rub, but a full Swedish-style massage with oil. Lovely.
  • Chiroprachtry is a quack. Or you could ask about my firsthand experiences.

    I will admit that chiropractry is good for an excellent massage, but that's about it. A Physical Therapist can do everything a chiropractor can do (except cure the common cold by manipulating the subluxations of my vertebrae hahaha) and it is a far more respected profession.

    Please do yourself a favor and get out while you can.

    Respectfully (no, really)
  • by pecus ( 25675 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:52AM (#193500) Homepage

    You sould all try swimming! It ends the pain! At least it works for me..

  • Get a unicycle. Fun, stress relieving and it works the lower back just right.
  • "I also had a bad pain killer addiction"

    You weren't really "addicted" to painkillers if you were taking them to really cope with chronic pain, which it sounds to me like you did. You were taking them to get rid of the pain, thats not really an "addiction"; if you kept taking them even when you had no pain then that would be an addiction. Was that the case? Just checking, it wasn't all that clear from the post.


  • Prescription:

    1. One pillow
    2. One asian girl
    3. One shot gin&tonic on rocks


    1. Lay on your back
    2. Place the pillow under your lower back
    3. Position carefully the girl on
    top of of your lower back
    4. Gently rock the girl for about 10 min.
    5. After completion, down the shot
    6. Have a good sleep

    Best results achieved with a japanese girl,
    a chinese one also very good in trained properly.
  • Second of all, you must excercise your abs! Your abs support your back! Be carefull though -- alot of ab excercises are dangerous for people with back injuries. Just try situps :)

    No!!! Do crunches. Situps are terrible for the back. Crunches, done properly, will exercise the same muscles without jarring your back and without such a high risk of tearing muscles.

  • Dangers of Chiropractors [] Much of what chiropractors do is nonsense, and they often misinform their patients.
  • Yes, quacks do tend to find quackwatch annoying.
  • Seriously.
    Stop laughing, I mean it. Orgasm has to be about the most effective treatment for lower back pain there is, the procedure isn't objectionable (which isn't the same as "it doesn't suck") and several of the better methods do some pretty good muscle stretches as well.
    Now what we need is a Company benefit that covers it.
  • If you think yoga is too wussy for you, try Bikram yoga. [] It's done in a hot room. Many people feel like they are going to faint their first class.

    I used to have chronic numbness in my elbows; once the inflammation starts, good chairs won't help. A couple hours after my first Bikram class, I noticed the numbness that had been in my elbows for 3 months was gone. As long as I keep going to classes, it doesn't come back.

    Try this a couple times a day: stand, put hands behind back, interlace fingers, bend forward and push hands high in the air. Keep pushing them as far back as you can, until you feel your shoulderblades relax and roll back a little. Hold, push, relax. Repeat. This is a great counterstretch for the tension of hunching at a screen/keyboard.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • I'd been pretty much ignoring back pain for about 6 years until recently, when I finally caved in and went to a chiropractor about it.

    As it happened, it was just as well, as other ailments such as shortness of breath I'd been suffering turned out to be directly related to it. Years of hunching over a keyboard means that I walk with enough of a stoop that my ribs are encroaching my lungs space... not a good situation, and apparently not all that uncommon either. I've now got a rigid regime of exercises to combat this... but it could have got a lot worse if my girlfriend hadn't badgered me into going to the doctor about it.

    So take my advice and go see your doctor about back pain.

  • Besides the oft and wisely suggested 'exercise,' I'm going to recommend sleep.

    Chances are, the hour put in on the computer/sitting are taken off of sleep hours before recreation hours - at least they are for me. (Heck, that's part of the recreation.) When we sit in a chair for X hours a day, immobile, our spine gets compounded and stiffened, which can cause pinched nerves, F'ed disks, etc.

    From my experience, most geeks don't get enough sleep. Most/many probably already know this, but we shrink about 1 inch (depending on how long our spine is) throughout the day, and are tallest in the 'morning' (whenever we wake up) because out spine has decompressed throughout our period of sleep.

    I don't know if it's scientifically proven or not, but here's my story. I did a little personal experiement to see if it would help my back pain, since the exercise alone really didn't help, but compounded *sic* the issue. (Due to an extra, deformed spinal link between my shoulder blades, most exercise tends to pinch nerves in a crippling, 'I can't breathe' type of way.) For me, getting as much sleep as I possibly could about once a week, plus sleeping - at a very mininum - 7 to 8 hours a night did the trick. Generally, things were only completely kosher with 9+ hours, and would hurt in the evening with anything less than 7.5.

    I was able to do this experiment since *gasp* I'm a college student. *g*

    Back stiffness can also be avoided if you take a break from the keyboard every half an hour or so and do a minimal amount of exercise - a couple jumping jacks, stretching, 10 pushups or so, some situps, etc.


  • First off, get to a doctor, and go from there.


    My experience started last October - I was working on a gocart, and while seated, turned my body to put the steering wheel back in place, and threw my back out - major pain. I couldn't even stand up properly.

    What I realized prior to that moment was that there was a ton of warning signs - I would have a stiff back if I sat for long periods in that same position ("Indian-style" - no offence to NAs), etc - that I had ignored.

    Well, I went to my doctor, and I was given Ibuprofen - 600mg - 3 a day. That made the pain go away, and I rested for a month - no hard work, etc. But then, I tried to ride the gocart, and fucked my back again. This time, I went back to using the IB, ran out - couldn't get another prescription, so I got some "south-o-the-border" IB, and took that. I ran out again, bought some over the counter 200mg, and took four (up to 800mg) - at one point I got to where I was up all night in pain, taking god-knows how much IB (I know at one point I was doing 1200-1400mg a couple of times a day - still prescript strength, but not for this), and it wasn't doing jack (oh, BTW - the side affect of IB causing constipation is true!).

    At that point, not knowing how much I was really taking, wondering about the effects on my liver, and why my back pain wasn't going away, I figured "Fuck it, they ain't working - I don't need them" and I stopped the IB.

    In less than two days my pain was majorly reduced - in a week, gone. I haven't tried riding my gocart in months (might go crazy sometime and try it again - who really knows). I get up out of my chair more often, and basically try to keep from being a desk spud. Stretching and exercise help as well.

    I am still uncertain whether the IB was actually not working, or whether something else was going on, I don't know - but all I do know is that the pain went away when I stopped taking the meds...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • by Fideaux! ( 44069 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:44AM (#193531) Homepage

    A couple of quick, easy steps:
    1. Lose weight. That sysadmin/coder's gut is pulling your back the wrong way.
    2. Excercise. Flab doesn't hold your back together the way toned muscle does.
    3. Posture. Sit and stand so that you don't stress your back. Get a good chair and lose that gut!

  • > Sounds silly, but how many of us carry our wallet in our back pockets? Move the wallet to a front pocket. It doesn't matter how nice of a chair you have if you are sitting on it crooked because of your wallet.

    > This was recommended to me by my chiropractor (yes, they actually do work) who unfortunately now hasn't seen me for about a year.

    Yeah, but even without moving your wallet, your back would've been better. Indeed, after going to the chiro, it was empty, and thus much less of a bulge...

  • Shovel 4 and a half tons of top soil into a wheel barrow, and cart it all over the yard, spreading evenly with a rake. It hurts after the forth trip.

    Why I ever let a person with a green thumb into my life is beyond me.
  • If you have a decent quality work chair, and adjust your seat correctly you can pretty much do away with the back pain (lower your chair so your legs are at 90 degrees...or even to the point that your knees are a bit above your hips...then lower your monitor, etc. accordingly).

    My problem is with my hips. I'm always crossing my legs one way or another, resting my elbows on the arm rests, slouching this way or that. You have to do something other than sit directly on your ass all day. I guess the only solution is the get up frequently and stretch/move around, and to get some decent exercise outside of work.

    BTW, you know that study that found that some given percentage of people that sat on long airplane trips would get embolisms, etc? Well, guess what else is very similar? Sitting on your butt all day in front of a computer.
  • Yep, yoga is the answer. Now, what was the question again? :)

    Seriously ... the sedentary office lifestyle might have been designed to foster ill-health of all kinds. Take a yoga break every few hours; you don't need to work up a sweat, or even do a headstand. You mostly need to make sure your spine stays flexible all day. Stretching, twisting, bending ... when do you do those (in good ways) sitting or meeting all day?

    And remember to breathe well. If you do that right, your other stress levels' will drop. And it strengthens your abdominals, which help your back. If your back is giving you problems, likely the rest of you isn't far behind.

    Just say "No!" to pharmaceuticals.

  • Don't worry, the next Ask SLashdot asks about who's the biggest bankruptcy attourney in all of Minnesota?

    (anyone who watches channel 9 in the daytime knows what I'm talking about. Nothing but commercials for the ComfaRest adjustable bed and dial L-A-W-Y-E-R-S)

    mod me down accordingly
  • 1. Do not visit a chiropractor, there just idiots

    A few months ago, I started getting some pretty severe back pain. At first it only happened when I bent down, like to tie my shoes or something. As time went on, the pain got worse, and not only that, but I didn't have to bend down as far for it to hurt. By the time I decided to get help, I could only bend down a couple of inches before the pain was unbearable, and since it's essentially the same motion, I was also having trouble walking, epsecially up and down stairs.

    The first thing I did was go to see my doctor. He checked out my symptoms, and told me he wanted me to get an MRI and a few other things. Well, this is the first time in my life that I've done this, but I completely ignored his advice. I went to find myself a chiroprator instead.

    The chiropractor had me get an x-ray, but that was just to confirm his suspicions (which were correct, btw). One of the discs in my back, near the bottom, had slipped out of place a little bit. Ironically, the rest of my back was so good he said he'd use my x-ray as an example of what a "normal" back looks like.

    So he gave me some light PT (10 minutes per visit with a TENS machine, and some bending and twisting, popping almost every vertebra in the process), and some stretches and excercises to do. I'm not 100% better yet (partly my fault, I don't do the stretches as much as I should), but I can actually walk now without discomfort. I'm back to the beginning symptoms, where only bending over/extending my legs really far causes pain.

    Especially considering that my doctor probably would have put me on all sorts of pain killers, and maybe even put me in for surgery, and since the chiropractor was covered by my insurance, I think I made the right choice.

    So maybe you'd like to explain why you think chiropractors are idiots?


  • I have a bad back. The best thing I've done for it is to buy a good chair. Aeron chairs aren't cheap but they have helped my back a LOT. Well worth every penny I paid for it, and you can get them for a deal right now from a failed dotcom.

    Second, get out and do something. Walk a few miles every That'll help strengthen your back.
  • by The Queen ( 56621 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @09:32AM (#193549) Homepage
    Sex, like any other form of exercise, requires precautionary measures. I started having lots of sex without first consulting my family physician, or even doing pre-sex warm-up stretches, and now I've got to have surgery for my hemorrhoids.
    But lower back pain? Gone! :-)

    "Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat, I touch..." - Comus, John Milton
  • I have been dealing with back pain for about 10 years. Here is a quick summary of my experiences.

    CHIROPRACTIC: I have seen at least 8 different chiropracters. Four of them have given me noticable results, and two of them have claimed to be able to "fix" me. There are at least three different styles of chiropractic that I have encountered. The most common is the manual adjustment type where the chiropracter uses his/her hands to adjust the spine. These adjustments are most often accompanied by a popping sound (like cracking your knuckles). Many chriopracters also have a masseuse in the office. I have just left seeing a chiropracter who uses a device called an "activator". This is kinda like a spring loaded finger which is used to administer the adjustments. Symptomatically, I improved from its use, but I felt that it was impersonal and was _only_ dealing with the symptoms. My wife started seeing a chiropracter who uses "active release technique" which involves vigorous massage at the same time as the adjustments are done, plus a very comprehensive set of exercises and stretches which are a requirement for the treatment. I have just switched to this doctor and I am very impressed. Many chiropracters do not prescribe an exercise regimen even if it is requested. I have felt that this is a major flaw in the common practice of chiropractic. The three times I have seen chiropracters who have recommended an exercise program, I have noticed improvements and while I do my exercises those improvements are maintained, even if I stop seeing the chiropracter.

    SHIATSU MASSAGE: When I worked at Sun for a short time the division I was part of brought in a Shiatsu massuese for anyone who wished it. These felt _fantastic_ and were very energizing, and would temporarily make my back feel better. Again, though, I felt like this was mostly addressing symptoms rather than root causes.

    ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: Up until a year ago I had never even heard of this. My mother has been receiving treatment and training for the past year. She raves about it as directly addressing the root habits which cause back and other structural problems (which in turn can cause some other symptoms of ill health). She has given me two treatments to demonstrate it. I feel that if I had the time I would definitely pursue it, however it is a very intense course: 4 hours a day five days a week. Basically, it is a very mental process in which you are made aware of your mental control of your physical condition.

    EXERCISE: Lets face it - most computer professionals or geeks are basically not living a lifestyle compatible with regular systematic exercise. Probably this is "bad" and "should" be changed somehow, but it won't be in the foreseeable future. I am lucky enough to work from home full time where I can easily get up from my work many times a day without anyone asking stupid questions. If you can, the minimum exercise you should get is to do many different small stretches during the day while you are working, ideally every twenty minutes to half an hour. The real ideal of course is to also get true cardiovascular and strengthening exercise every day, and eat lots of veggies and fruit, and spend time outdoors, and, and ...

    MARTIAL ARTS: I just started taking Kempo Karate which is karate with strong chinese influences. I found that the regular exercise made me feel great but it didn't help my back much per se. Rather, on ocaision, I would do something in class which would put my back out more! In other word, _be_ _careful_. All that said, for general physical fitness and usefulness and mental discipline, not much beats a martial art!

    CHAIR AND OTHER EQUIPMENT: Last summer I developed a pretty serious case of repetitive strain injuries in my wrists and fingers. So I decided to get serious about my home office environment. I purchased a good chair with a high back and (for me) comfortable lumbar support. Very adjustable, but not an Aeron :-( This chair has definately helped my back, but my habits diminish its effects somewhat since I slouch and slide down quite far on my chair (resting on my neck and lower back instead of my bum). As an aside, I also bought gel wrist supports for keyboard and mouse and that cleared up my strain injuries almost immediately (FYI).
  • Exercise is the panacea for so many things. Back Pain can be caused by general immobility in your spine for long periods of time. Your lower spin is connected to your ass with many tiny muscles. These guys are constantly tugging with each other in order to keep your spine straight. When you sit in one position for long periods of time, certain muscles get stretched too much (you get the picture). Best solution, garaunteed cure (unless it's cancer) is to take regular breaks and do some kind of basic movement. Then as often as you can, thrice a week, etc, try doing something more active like swimming, or lifting heavy boxes(um scratch the heavy lifting bit).
  • First off, the advise about exercise and lifestyle changes are the best. I've found that just getting up and taking a stretch every 1/2 to 1 hour helps a _lot_ (you know, just like they tell you to?).

    I've had lower back pain for years that has been reduced a lot - I feel - by taking Glucocamine and Chondroitin. I started taking it for my bad knees and noticed that the episodes of bad back pain have been nearly eliminated. My knees are a lot better too.

    It takes 6-10 weeks of taking it before you start to get benefit, though.

    But, do the exercise and stretching too, those are what will really help.

  • Beds come in really wide varieties, and what matters isn't some absolute that some sales person is trying to push, but what's good for you, with your body and your current condition. Good beds are hard to define, though really bad beds are pretty easy to recognize :-) Sometimes just variety makes a difference - staying in a hotel or bed&breakfast with good beds (as opposed to staying in one with bad beds, or sleeping on airplane seats, or those beds your parents have had since you were a kid when you're home visiting them... When I visit my mother-in-law, I usually sleep on the floor because it beats her sofa-bed.)

    Some of the newer foam technology is really nice, and helped a lot for some of my problems. I don't know if waterbeds are a good idea long-term - some people swear by them, some people view them as leftover hippie stuff (some of us view them nostalgicly as old hippie stuff :-) The newer versions give you ways to cut down on sloshing around and make the things easier to handle. I've never been that impressed with futons, but they work for some people. Some people do well with extra padding, though too much usually means you're not getting enough support, which is bad for your lower back, though it may be just great for your shoulders.

    So experiment. Hack your bed.

  • I use this chair [] from Stokke []. I was going to buy one when I found one in the garbage room in my apartment house, brand new. Talk about throwing away money!:-)
  • I used to have serious back pain problems. They all went away by doing the following:
    • sleeping only on my back, not on my stomach. Sleeping on your stomach causes your spine to bend backwards, which is really bad. Sleeping on the side isn't any better, but I never did that anyway.
    • taking calcium suppliments. This is also good for minor joint and muscle pains.
    • exercising. I recommend a Bowflex []. It's expensive, but it's the only exercise machine I've liked.
    Assuming your problems are like mine, you should see improvement in about a month.
    Lord Nimon
  • Ill keep things natural and suggest cannabis.

    well cannabis doesn't do much except make you forgetful and stupid which doesn't make you a very effective person while it's relieving pain. codeine is nice, but it requires a perscription. personally i suggest cocaine as it's "natural" as well, doesn't require a perscription, relieves pain AND it makes you more productive (longer attention span, easier to concentrate).

    ...or you could just get a better chair. your choice.

    - j

  • 1) Exercise as others have helpfully mentioned
    2) Buy a Herman Miller Aeron chair. This will be the best 700 dollars you ever spent. Your back will love you for it. I got one for work and one for my office at home, I loved it so much.
  • Your doctor will prescribe painkillers, and maybe if you're lucky a course of physiotherapy. You'll be attacking the symptoms, not the cause.

    Alexander Teachers are trained professionals - they train for three years and continue training for the rest of their careers.

    Don't just write it off because you've never heard of it.
  • True, habits aren't always the cause of the problem - but the question referred to "hours of hunching over a keyboard and coding away". For that kind of problem, there's no quesiton in my mind that AT would be a fantastic idea.

  • by gimbo ( 91234 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:05AM (#193586) Homepage
    If you're interested in attacking the cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms, you might want to investigate Alexander Technique [].

    The basic idea behind the technique is that we build up bad habits of usage in our bodies, and that they are what lead to these problems - so if we can correct these usage patterns then we can prevent problems rather than just treat them. Unfortunately it's hard to correct our habits, because they're, er, habitual. :-) But with patience and the help of a skilled teacher, progress can be made.

    Painkillers, massage, chiropracters, etc. are all well and good, but ultimately you're only treating the symptons. This is true even of massage - sure, you might get rid of the tension that's causing the back pain, but if it's you that's putting that tension there, you're going to put it back there and start the cycle again. Alexander Technique is about breaking the cycle.

    My experience: I'm a programmer, and I've sufferred from both back pain and wrist pain increasingly over the last couple of years which is why I went looking for a solution. I've been a student of the technique for about six months now, and it's definitely helping me. It's put me in touch with my body in that I can now recognise when and where I'm holding excess tension, and it's also teaching me how to go about correcting it properly. (Half of the problem is that we have a "deranged" sense of what our own bodies are doing, so very often the right thing to do feels wrong, and the thing that feels right is actually wrong!).

    These days my back and wrists simply don't hurt me as much as they used to. That's not the end of the story though, because it's a holistic process. For example, I also discovered that when I'm driving, I clench my jaw, ramming my tongue up behind my teeth. There's no good reason for doing that, so I'm learning to stop. It's a long process, but it's definitely working - and helping.

    The only problem with the technique is that it's pretty expensive (mainly because it's taught one-to-one []) - but I consider it to be an investment in my future health, and hey, as a programmer I can afford it. ;-)
    If you're really serious about sorting out your back pain or RSI, I heartily encourage you to give it a shot.

    Best of luck,

  • An excellant link. It's a good idea also to check out EXRX [] for some good routines and explanations of movements. And of course spending a few weeks reading won't even have a good chance of seeing Krista post. ;)

    Oh, and as another poster noted: your abs are more important to spinal stability than your back muscles (a "weight belt" is basically an abdominal supporter) so don't forget the incline sits. If you DL correctly and do situps it should go a long way toward preventing back injuries.
  • I am on the computer an average of 12 to 16 hours per day (depending on the day), and for a long time I was always hunched over so I would have good access to the keyboard. At least that's what I thought. About a month ago I decided to take advantage of my wife's excellent vision plan (I'm a consultant and have no insurance) and take care of some checkups that I'd not had for a while, the most notable being a vision checkup. I hadn't had one since probably 6 years ago in high school so I was curious. Now this wasn't because my eyesight looked bad or anything, I was just wanting to make sure things were going along like they should.

    After a few minutes in the chair, I found out that I had astigmatism, which if you are in your early 20s will make farther away stuff look blurry and closer stuff look clear due to your lens growing too fast (or so they told me). The doctor said that people often will lean forward or generally bring the viewed object closer without even realizing it. This sounded like a familiar song and dance (since I was acutely aware of my bad posture and the problems it causes), so I shelled out the money for some glasses.

    Ever since doing so, I don't ever lean forward and things are noticably clearer. I was surprised, I hadn't even noticed that my vision was getting out of whack. My back hasn't hurt since.
  • by rasjani ( 97395 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:45AM (#193597) Homepage
    Ill keep things natural and suggest cannabis.
  • Sex is certanly one of the ones I would suggest, of course, it is a little difficult without a partner.

    There are alternatives [].

  • by skwog ( 101252 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:45AM (#193601) Homepage
    Get all the excersize you can.
  • by OmegaDan ( 101255 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:45AM (#193602) Homepage
    medical professionals :)

    Legal advice from Slashdot? Folly at best.

    Medical advice from Slashdot? Dangerous.

    Despite this, I'll dispense some wisdom anyways ... I have a herniated disc and am quite familiar with back pain ... If your experiencing back pain you *MUST GO TO THE DOCTOR.* It could be something serious. Go to the doctor right now, when your back and hes confirmed you don't have a serious condition, continue reading :) So heres what I've learned about backs :

    You *MUST* excercise every day [Alot of slashdoters have told you this already but its worth repeating]. Excercise is crucial when you sit for 8 - 12 hours a day. Excercise dosen't have to be at a gym either -- go walk a couple miles per day.

    If you have a disc problem *don't lift ANYTHING*. When you feel you can lift again, you must lift correctly (with the legs -- I'm sure you can find a website on proper lifting technique).

    Your back is WEAKEST when your spine isn't straight, IE when your leaning. Never lift anything when your leaning, and try not to lean!

    Lastly, its difficult to excercise your back muscles but you must do this. Theres two things you must do -- take a cylinder like a pipe or (my favorite) a wooden clothes hanging bar form your closet. Take this bar -- rest it on your shoulders behind your head, and bring your arms up and around it. Use the bar to strech by twisting left and right and up and down and every way inbetween -- its a very gentle excercise and it will help. Second of all, you must excercise your abs! Your abs support your back! Be carefull though -- alot of ab excercises are dangerous for people with back injuries. Just try situps :)

    Lastly, PLEASE go to the doctor. Instead of that next GEForce card or effects processor -- or whatever your into, invest in your health. I injured my back when I was 17 with a herniated disk. I resisted going to the doctor but eventually had to when I would wake up most mornings *not being able to walk or stand.* Believe me you don't want that.

    Best of luck, OD

  • I know oral sex will take your mind off the problem. I works for me :)
  • by _w00d_ ( 129045 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:06AM (#193631)

    ...that I would recommend chiropractic, proper stretching techniques, and massage long before I would recommend drugs. Pain killers and muscle relaxers don't fix the problem, they just mask it. Most people who sit a computer all day have poor posture and much of their pain would be relieved if they corrected their posture [].

    Here is a bad analogy for you: If the CPU fan in your PC started making a bunch of noise, would you rather put head phones on so you can't hear the noise or would you rather fix the problem before the fan dies and your CPU overheats?

    I can't speak as intelligently on the topic as a DC yet so I will offer you a few links to people who can: html [] ack-pain.htm [] []

    The last link above may prove to be the most useful as it looks at the problem of back pain not only from holistical view but also from a medicinal view.

  • by ejbst25 ( 130707 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:45AM (#193636) Homepage
    I bet you will find that 90% of the companies out there will let you buy your own chairs and whatnot so that you don't get a bad back. Its worth go do it.
  • by Wintermancer ( 134128 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:14AM (#193637)
    Add/Remove Software->Unistall Windows 9X/NT/2000

    Select "Yes," and then 10 subsequent "Are you really, really sure that you want to uninstall Windows?" dialogue boxes

    Presto! No more lower back pain.

    Glad to have been of help.
  • Yoga is good too. I have a company supplied membership to a local gym that teaches, among other things, yoga classes. It's extremely good for posture and stress relief. And lets not forget about the gorgeous women that take the class too. Give it a shot.
  • I'm not trying to condem you, but you admit you admit in your post that you brought this on yourself. The doctor told you what you needed to do, you needed to make a lifestyle change, you needed to exercise. The pain would have gone away or at least been signifigantly reduced if you had followed this advice. I've never had serious back pain, but both my father and my wife have. Both have found that following the exercise regiment the doctor recommends (And I mean seriously, we're talking about half and hour three day a week here)has totally taken care of the pain. I also know a guy who has degenerativve disk disease who will keep getting worse no matter what he does, but that does not sound like the situation you were in (Who knows, you may be now, enough reinjuries will do that.)

    It's horrible what you went through, it's good that you have worked your way out of it. Exercise is not a cure all, it won't make your addiction go away, but it will help with the root cause (your pain), and help you resist your addiction. You might also wish to consider a form of exercise that instill some sort of mental disipline (tai-chi, yoga, Other martial arts). So take the advice for what it's worth from someone who has not been where you are...

  • Yes, I can relate. Who knew that being a geek would be so hard on the body? I've had lower back problems since I was a teenager. I finally figured out that my problem is related to my hamstring's being too tight. They are attached to your hips, and when they are tight, they pull your hips forward all the time which stretches the muscles in your lower back. I found that by stretching my legs every day it really helped my back.

    Still, you always have to be carefull.. Just yesterday I was hunched over the keyboard for 5 hours without a break, which causes all your muscles to stiffen up, then I had to move an IBM InfoPrint 21 which must weigh about 60 pounds. ... That hurt.


  • I am posting this under a new account, as my old account has been ravished by people at work that were logging in as me and not knowing it.


    I am the network admin for a local ISP.

    Not to be a cold-hearted ass or anything, but does anyone else find it disturbing that this ISP has an admin who is a junkie, and who is careless enough to let co-workers log into his account at work?

    IamJaxn, you wouldn't be scamming us, would you? If you are, then both of those were nice touches. If not, then good luck to you in your recovery.

  • I had very bad back pains for a while, mostly due to non-computer things, but anyway, regular Yoga practice cured them in record time (I was amazed how fast the pain stopped) and they have been gone for 6+ years now.

    There are tons of beginners videos and books on the subject, as well as specific Yoga workouts for various problems like back pain.

  • Having not one but both parents with back problems, I have to agree. So far, I've avoided any pain myself by following a moderate routine at the gym, plus fat loss and a few back-specific exercises.

    Here's a no fuss Exercise and Muscle Directory [] that will allow you to pinpoint most muscles and choose an appropriate exercise. They even include a short animation showing how to properly do each exercise. This resource is geared to serious body builders and atheletes though it is quite nice.

    Because of this effort, I have a substantial amount of muscle supporting my spine and I feel solid.

    The most sucessful exercise I've ever done is hyperextentions.

    At the gym ask the instructors about hyperextentions and give it a try. If you do nothing else, and aren't too overweight or have other back problems, this exercise alone should be enough to strengthen your back substantially.

    As with any exercise stay in control and do each rep slow and steady. It's not the number of times you do something it's the technique. Jerking yourself around or over stressing yourself can lead to torn muscles, tendons, or (unlikely) bone damage.

    Suggested Routine

    Hyperextentions can really knot up your back if you aren't used to exercising your back. Here's a begining suggestion;

    Do 4-6 sets

    For the first few weeks, only do 5-10 reps per set

    Rest 2 minutes between sets

    Space out your exercise routine so that you have 2 days of recovery before hitting the same muscles

    After a few weeks, move the number of reps per set up and reduce the number of sets down to 3 or 4. The time between sets can be shortened substantially as well (typically 30-50 seconds depending on comfort).

  • There's nothing quite so satisfying as debugging yet another kernel module whilst being serially massaged by two dozen of your finest wives.

    Nah, seriously, I have one of those ergonomic back chairs (it doesn't work) and I get up and stretch every so often (nor does that). Sometimes I try to massage myself (in leiu of having a harem), but unfortunately, my arms are not as flexible as they used to be, and I find that anything further away than my mouse is hard to reach...

    PS Maybe this would be a good Poll?

  • That's right. I *give* backrubs to relieve my back pain. Because when I give my friend's backrubs, they are happy friends who give me backrubs back. The moral of the story? Learn to give good backrubs. :D
  • My problems with the back ended when I got a Stokke, the simplest model called Variable Balans. Basically the same kneeling geometry as with the Wing, except rocking base instead of the wheels (enables you to find a natural balance). Now I wonder why the heck the typical chair is designed with the completely unnatural 90 degree angles. The best thing is that the correct back position comes naturally without forcing, as is the case with ordinary chairs. It gives more freedom for movement, quite handy if you occasionally need to access a drawer or something on your side. And it's perfect for meditation [] too. ^_^

    I hit the karma cap, now do I gain enlightenment?
  • Also try your girlfriend's period pain pills

    With that much time spent coding, finding a girlfriend might be an issue.
  • >>Back pain is associated with weak abdominal
    >>muscles. If you strengthen your abdominal
    >>muscles, the most common kind of back pain will go away.

    Even though that's taught by about a million gym teachers, it's not entirely true. While your abdominals can provide a little additional support for your back in some circumstances, they don't get rid of lower back pain.

    Why not? Well, think about it. Your abdominals make you bend forwards. Your lower back muscles make you bend backwards. They pull in opposite directions. When you're trying to pull yourself backwards (like when you're picking things up), your abs simply cannot pull in the right direction to help your lower back muscles.

    Now contracting them does "stiffen" your absominal cavity, and provides a little extra support, having strong back muscles in the first place is a necessity.

  • Do like the astronauts, and get Rolfed. See [] and [] (there has been a branching in the training institutes). The premise is that fascia which run within and between muscles are a colloidal tissue which under the right pressure liquifies (like dirt in an earthquake of the right frequence) enabling structural stuff that's been stuck out-of-line from old injuries and habits to be freed up. Also good for returning to gravity from space tourism.

    After getting rolfed, Alexander Technique and/or yoga can be invaluable for tuning and maintaining the better structure. There can also be a place for short-term chiropractic in conjunction with rolfing. Walking is also very good - there's less strain on the back when walking than sitting.

    Of course, not all rolfers are equal. But of the 7 I've seen over two decades, only 2 were of questionable skill. So if you start out with someone who doesn't quite suit you, odds are switching to another will see an improvement. The standard is a course of ten sessions, after which most people are in much improved shape - of course you can always screw yourself up again, but rolfing should get you far enough forward that exercise and postural techniques become feasible and rewarding where previously they'd been a pain, and even counterproductive in terms of backlash and aggravation of existing problems.

  • Sex!! No, wait. That causes my back pain. Never mind.
  • Most of the time, the solution to lower back pain is pretty straightforward, even if not easy--proper exercise.

    Something like 90% of lower back pain is ultimately related to poor abdominal muscle tone. The immediate cause of the pain is most often some "trauma," as it is called--something that causes one of your muscles to strain too hard (for example, poor posture in your office chair). But generally, this trauma happens because the back muscles are not getting the support they need from the abs and are hence being overstrained.

    Now, if your muscles hurt real bad right now, this is not the time for exercise, but for rest. There are some good exercises that stretch out your back muscles and help with pain--one of the best is to lie on the floor and put your calves up on a chair or something so that your body makes two 90% angles (hence called the 90-90 position).

    Oh, as far as posture goes, learn how to adjust your chair and arrange your workspace for maximum support for your back and take a break every 30 minutes to get up, walk a few paces, and then sit back down. That is very important . . . I believe it stretches out some muscles that get progressively tenser the longer you use them for sitting.

    Here [] is a handy reference chart for determining the type of back strain you have.

    Here [] is a google cache of some exercises for your lower back. There is a lot more out there on the internet--you can get pages and pages of good exercises to do with a few minutes search.

    Hope this helps!

  • by ghengismcbangus ( 201239 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @10:05AM (#193701)
    Get good equipment for your work area

    My sister is a hand surgeon in Berkeley; she fixes lots of .com'ers with RST, CTS, etc. She claims that the injuries resultant from too much computer time are almost entirely preventable with the correct equipment.

    Specific recommendations:

    The Zack Back chair, avaliable from It is one of the only chairs that offers _NO_ lumbar support, which apparently pushes your spine in exactly the wrong direction.

    A split keyboard, so your hands point straight forward, with no radial/ulnar deviation of your wrists, and are spaced as close to shoulder width as possible. I use a GoldTouch keyboard, which has two halves connected by a ball joint. Used as designed, it can tilt and swivel in all sorts of ways that will make my sister rich, but with minor surgery (remove the ball joint), it turns into a nice two-part keyboard with about 6" of slack in the wire that connects the halves.

    Position your monitor correctly: When sitting up straight in your chair, with your head not tilted up or down, your eyes should be looking about 2/3 of the way up your screen. The cheapest, and most readily availble adjustment device for your monitor is printer paper. Place reams and partial reams under your monitor base to get it to the right height. Also - 2 monitors may be cool for getting 6 emacs buffers full of code showing at the same time, but it's hell on your neck. Unless you're willing to swivel your entire chair each time you switch your focus from one to the other (rather than swinging your head from side-to-side), get rid of the second monitor, place one where it's centered in your work area, and get used to having the computer switching contexts for you.

    Get a low-profile track ball (I use a Kensington Orbit), so you can manipulate the cursor with your fingers, and not your whole arm. If you're right-handed, consider switching your mouse to the left side to reduce the workload for your busiest hand. It takes a few days to get used to, but it's worth it.

    Final disclaimer:
    Neither me nor my sister have any interest in ZackBack, GoldTouch, or Kensington (or Hamerhill, Weyerhauser, or any other paper company, either.)


  • by tenzig_112 ( 213387 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:47AM (#193710) Homepage
    The "pain killers" for "back pain" always end up being just a doorway to heroin. At least, that's the way they tell it.

    But worry not, according to Behind The Music, 9 times out of 10 this crippling addiction starts right before the rock star in question becomes blindingly famous.

    So, good luck.

    And Happy Memorial Day []

  • I started doing yoga when I was 7 and unaware of the physical benefits, stopped for a long time and went back a few years ago. I've had a lot of different yoga teachers. Some were great and some were clueless.

    This is probably true of all forms of excercise, but with yoga, it is VITAL that you learn from a good teacher. Many of the postures in yoga are deceptively powerful (because the work the muscle in both directions simultaneously.) This is particularly true for the postures in a newer style of yoga that they call "power yoga"

    If you don't do the postures properly, or with sensible modifications, you WILL hurt yourself. You may not feel anything at the time, but you will pull and possibly damage your muscles in ways you did not realise were possible. Thus, unless you are very aware of your body and your muscles, don't even think about learning yoga from a video.

    It's highly unlikely that you will be able to do every posture to its full extent. A good yoga teacher will watch what you're doing and help you modify and correct yourself so that you get benefit without hurting yourself. A good teacher will also carefully explain which parts of the body are at work so that you can gain a better awareness of what you are doing to yourself.

    Yoga is very individual -- everyone has different physical abilities, and so most postures and movements must be modified (to increase or decrease the intensity) to match your own needs. A good teacher is aware of this, but there are many bad ones who aren't.

    I think yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but I know too many people who say "Yeah, I tried yoga, but the next day I hurt so much I couldn't move." Yoga should not be this painful, and whoever you learn from should help you ensure this.

  • by unformed ( 225214 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:40AM (#193722)
    as it says, man, nothing beats the drugs :)

  • The common kind of back pain is not directly related to "hunching over a keyboard and coding away". It is caused by pushing yourself too much, and being disconnected from other parts of your life.

    Back pain is associated with weak abdominal muscles. If you strengthen your abdominal muscles, the most common kind of back pain will go away.
  • by the real jeezus ( 246969 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:11AM (#193740)

    True. It is also good for wrist pain & neck/eye strain. Yoga emphasizes that there is a counter posture for every posture your body can get into--whether it be hunching over a keyboard or swinging a golf club. When you practice yoga, you will slowly strengthen your abs and spine. You will learn how to breathe properly, something we all "forget" on the path to adulthood. Proper breathing can cure or prevent asthma, chronic bronchitis, and colds. You will also feel a subtle but positive increase in your level of physical energy.

    I find it ironic that insurance companies in the U.S. won't pay for my yoga classes, but they are more than happy to pay for addictive drugs with unsavory side effects (a/k/a prescriptions).

    Ewige Blumenkraft!
  • by CrazyLegs ( 257161 ) <> on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:56AM (#193750) Homepage

    Wow! Your back must be really flexible! :\

  • by CrackElf ( 318113 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:48AM (#193773) Homepage
    I have a good chair at work which i have tweaked every which way until it suits me. At home I do not notice the pain. I do not know if that is because I have the whole thing suited to me, or if it is because I am too engrossed in what I am doing to care. As for pain when I am not in front of the computer, I have noticed that when I am physically active, my back pain is significantly reduced. I take tae-kwon-do several times a week, and, as it is interesting to me, I stick with it. My recommendation is to find a physical activity that you like and go to it, do your thing, get in shape.
  • by aswxmike ( 455523 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:53AM (#193810)
    I tried all of them, pain killers, chiropractor, etc. I do agree completely with the idea of getting a good chair. That makes a huge difference. As far as exercise is concerned, you might try yoga. I found that my back pain went away completlely after developing a yoga practice.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson