I have had chronic lower back pain for a couple of years now. This pain had developed prior to starting weightlifting and exercising. I knew I had to figure out a way to keep the pain at bay so I could keep training. Continue reading below to see what I use for tight back muscle relief.
TENS Unit – Pulsating your Pain Away
I had first heard about this from a few friends in the gym that had been talking about it. TENS unit stands for ‘Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation’. The unit works by sending small, very low voltage, electrical currents to the specific area that you place the electrodes on. TENS units are also important for stimulating your body to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer.
I place them on my back and can increase the setting to a comfortable one. Each TENS unit has different programming on it, but what I’ve found is that most treatments can go for as little as 5 minutes and as much as 1 hr, if that is what you choose.
Each time I use my TENS, I usually do about 15-20 minutes in each area that I am trying to relieve pain (lower back, upper back, shoulder etc). There is always great relief after using the TENS. It is small, affordable and extremely easy to use. The pads that connect to the electrode are replaceable when they are no longer sticking. I also enjoy that I do not have to replace batteries as this one is recharged with a charger. I would highly recommend this to anyone that suffers from a tight back.
Make sure to read the detailed instructions that come with your device for your safety (:
** Added benefit- this TENS unit is also great for other parts of your body besides your back (calves, biceps, shoulders etc.)
Inversion Table – Hanging by your Ankles (On Purpose)
My fiance and I just recently purchased an inversion table as I my career involves me standing an extreme amount. I was thinking that along with standing placing pressure and making my back more uncomfortable that gravity itself was also pushing down on my vertebrae. And boy was I right! I have noticed a huge difference from using this bad boy. Huge relief. The set up itself was somewhat a pain; thankfully my fiance is super handy. After that, I have found that the inversion table has really helped with the tightness in my back.
You basically hang from your ankles, not all the way upside down because that would be extremely uncomfortable, but at about a 60 degree angle. There are three different settings on the particular one that we have, one that does not put you back that far, on in the middle and one that puts you back the furthest. I started with the middle one and worked my way up to the one that has you hanging the most upside down.
It definitely takes some adjusting, as I have not hung upside down since I was a child on a playground. However, I followed the instructions that mentioned only hanging for about 3-4 minutes and not starting at the lowest setting when first starting out, and I have quickly adjusted. I do it daily, sometimes twice a day and really have noted that my back muscle is less sore.
The downside, it is rather large and slightly awkward to store. In my opinion, the benefits highly outweigh this downfall. We simply store it in our spare room.
Foam Roller/Tennis Balls
As my back pain started to increase when I was nearing the end of college, I began foam rolling before and after my workouts to help loosen my lower back and leg muscles. Foam rolling and use of tennis ball rolling against a wall or on the floor serves to provide as myofascial relief, or relieving some tightness and pressure from fascia becoming too tight/restrictive around muscle.
Fascia is a type of connective tissue found in various parts of the body, especially around muscle. When we foam roll or use a tennis ball, we are helping in breaking down this excess tissue that is causing us discomfort. I personally have felt a great deal of relief after both foam rolling and tennis ball rolling. You can definitely feel where you have more built up tissue/knots as those areas are uncomfortable to roll over and you can feel them slightly move as you roll!
This method of tight muscle back relief is also extremely affordable, not time-consuming and easy to store.
**Added benefit, similar to the TENS unit, you can use this method for other tight muscles as well, not just your back (chest, deltoids, hamstrings, quads, etc)
Massage – The Ultimate Relaxation
This one basically speaks for itself. Who doesn’t love getting a massage? It helps increase blood flow, loosens knots and that built up fascia, and aids in relaxation.
Something that we all are guilty of, is not taking enough time to get massages. I personally find this difficult as I work 12hr shifts as a nurse. We all need to ensure that we are setting aside time as massages provide so many amazing benefits.
The only downfall besides maybe not always having the time, is that massages can get somewhat expensive. Luckily there are programs that if you sign up for monthly massages you can save large amounts of money.
Knowing your body is key when you are an active person. When you are in pain, or even the slightest bit of discomfort, know that it is time to resort to some self-help tools before things get worse. Listed above are the products that I currently use and that I find very beneficial. Let me know what you use, what works for you and what doesn’t work so well. Thanks!