Low Back Strain is a Pain in the Back for Teachers: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments That Work

teacher

It’s hard being a teacher. Sure, they have summers off, but they work a year – or more – in those nine months when school’s in session, and still, most will tell you, they never get enough done.

And teachers do so much more than simply educate our children.

Former classroom teacher and current instructional coach and author, Dr. Tina Boogren, says in her book Take Time for You, “Teachers make more minute-to-minute decisions than brain surgeons.” Teachers are tasked with the ability to switch gears mid-lesson, and sometimes, mid-sentence if an issue arises.

Additionally, a teacher is required to wear many hats: disciplinarian, role model, counselor, facilitator, educator, parent.

Teachers many hats require them to stand on their feet all day, circulating around the classroom, picking children up when they fall, or corralling them to their next class in the most orderly fashion possible. Then there’s the grading, which can require hours of sitting behind a desk.

Teaching, therefore, can not only result in a lot of mental strain and exhaustion but physical exhaustion, as well, especially in the form of lower back strain.

Symptoms of lower back strain

Lower back strain is the most common musculoskeletal pain among teachers. The result can be missed work and even early retirement. The constant, chronic pain associated with lower back strain can also result in a diminished quality of life.

The muscles of the low back include:

  • erector spinae
  • gluteal muscles
  • oblique muscles
  • hip flexors
  • abdominals

They help the body twist, bend, lift, arch, stand, and move in various directions, as well as help support the weight of the upper body.

Lower back strain occurs when the muscle fibers become overstretched or even torn. The pain can become unbearable and result in injury or an inability to perform daily tasks.

The following are the most common symptoms associated with lower back strain:

  • pain that radiates into the buttocks
  • stiffness
  • limited range of motion
  • muscle spasms
  • impaired posture due to pain

Another symptom of lower back strain is pain that persists for longer than 10 to 14 days. Pain that lasts that long may require a diagnosis from a licensed medical professional.

How to diagnose Lower back strain

A lower back strain diagnosis will typically only require a visit to your primary care physician who will prescribe treatment for your lower back strain or refer you to a specialist.

If the pain does not subside after six weeks, however, there may be something more severe going on, such as a bulging disc or a pinched nerve. In that case, you may require an X-ray, an MRI, or both. From there, your doctor will be able to recommend the best possible treatment solution toward easing your lower back strain.

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Back pain

When teaching becomes a pain in the back, here are treatments that work

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to combat lower back strain is to keep moving.

Staying off your feet when you have any sort of muscle strain can only allow the muscles time to stiffen up. Plus, if you rest the muscles for too long, you could be doing more harm than good, as muscles will become weaker and you’ll lose muscle strength.

This could set you back even further. So, what do you do to remedy lower back strain?

Stretch and strengthen your back with physical therapy

If you are diagnosed with lower back strain, it’s likely your doctor will recommend you see a physical therapist who will then put you through various treatment modalities that may include:

  • stretching
  • ultrasound
  • electrical muscle stimulation
  • pelvic traction
  • ice and heat therapy

Here are a few exercises you can try at home:

Rest your back with ice and heat therapy

Ice and heat therapy are two tried and true remedies for lower back strain. Applying ice to your low back can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. The heat from using a heating pad or sitting in a warm bath will also help alleviate pain in addition to improving blood flow and circulation, which can help ease muscle strain naturally.

Whichever therapy you’re using, you should only do so for no more than 20 minutes at a stretch and make sure you take a two-hour break between each application, so you don’t injure or irritate your skin.

Never sleep with a heating pad or ice pack!

Soothe the pain naturally with a topical pain cream or ointment

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to take prescription or over-the-counter medications to alleviate your lower back strain, you might find relief from a topical like CBDMEDIC™ Back & Neck Pain Relief Ointment. This ointment is a pill-free option to find pain relief through its proprietary blend of all-natural ingredients, including active pharmaceutical ingredients, camphor and menthol, blended with CBD hemp extract, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, clove essential oils and other natural emollients that are tough on pain, but gentle on the skin.

Like ice and heat therapy, the menthol and camphor provides a heat and cooling sensation that enhances flood flow and interrupts the pain signals in the brain. But unlike ice and heat packs, you can apply it and have freedom of movement while the heat and cold sensations are fast in action. Thus, it’s a great addition to your physical therapy or other treatment regimen.

Feeling more adventurous? You can also explore these alternative treatments for your back pain

Poke away the pain with acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that focuses on energies within the body that can be accessed through various pressure points. Tiny needles are inserted into these pressure points and then stimulate the nervous system and help relieve conditions like lower back strain.

The American Pain Society and American College of Physicians both suggest that one should consider acupuncture for low back pain when conventional treatments do not work.

While Traditional Chinese Medicine believe they are balancing the body’s qi (pronounced chee) or energy along meridians aka energy channels, convention medicine is beginning to recognize it’s potential to:

  • Speed electromagnetic signals throughout the body and releasing endorphins, which kill pain.
  • Release immune system cells in the body to help with healing.
  • Release natural opioids in the brain, your body’s pain killers.
  • Change brain chemistry by helping release neurotransmitters and neurohormones, your brain’s chemical messengers who help deliver signals of pain and pleasure to the body—among other functions.

Snap, crackle, and pop with chiropractic care

Ok, so you really don’t crack anything with this manual manipulation. But the applied pressure on your back does release popping sounds when the pockets of air in the joint fluid are released. While this treatment is classified as an alternative treatment, this generally recognized safe and effective treatment (GRASE) has become a mainstream treatment. The primary goal of chiropractic care is to align the spine. This helps relieve pain from poor posture, injuries, or stiff joints so you can get back on your feet and move with ease.

Get a massage to relieve muscle pain

Massage is a wonderful holistic tool to help find relief from lower back strain. It is important, however, if you’re sole intent of getting a massage is to heal your low back pain, make sure your massage therapist focuses on the quadratus lumborum and the gluteus medius. These two low back muscles, in particular, can be the source of all your low back woes.

Stretch out those kinks and gain better posture with yoga

Yoga offers an encyclopedia of poses to help provide relief from lower back strain. Some of the best poses to try for lower back strain include:

Yoga also seeks to strengthen the core muscles, as you’re supposed to keep the core slightly engaged in almost every pose, which can work to prevent lower back strain.

Here’s some great exercises you can try on your own. But remember, if you are new to exercise or have a serious health condition, speak to your doctor first.

Self-Care Should Be Your Number One Priority

Self-care is vitally important for everyone, but it is of particular importance to all you teachers out there. You’re tasked with so many, well, tasks within a single, eight-hour workday, and as any teacher will tell you, the day doesn’t end there. While it is easy to forget about yourself as you are out changing the world, you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself.

With all the stresses you have to deal with in the classroom, lower back strain shouldn’t be one of them.

Your back will thank you.

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Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It has not been approved by the FDA to diagnose, treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate any diseases or conditions. We use CBD in our products for cosmetic purposes only.

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