Troubleshooting Lower Back Pain

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In my previous post I shared why I started to see a chiropractor. Last year I started to have lower back pain and my most recent episode in May did not go away within a few days like the other incidents. It scared me and I went to Urgent Care. They sent me home with a prescription for muscle relaxers which didn't really seem to do much for me.

So today I want to share some of the things to pay attention to if you have lower back pain. I've learned apparently once a person experiences lower back pain, it is common to recur.

Dr. Karen Lee, a holistic chiropractor physician says,

“There are many causes  for low back pain (LBP) and unfortunately, if you have had one episode, the chances are, you will have another. And to avoid a re-occurrence, you have to treat the cause. But more importantly, you have to be proactive and take preventive steps.”

My new chiropractor set me up on a five month plan. She wanted me to come in three times a week initially, but I am only in town four days a week, so we settled on twice a week. After a month, she told me to come in once a week.

Every time she adjusted me, my back felt quite a bit better. But it kept feeling off, like it was threatening to go out again. I was feeling very frustrated that I was still having stiffness and discomfort. I was starting to wonder if I was just going to have to put up with it. It wasn't really very bad, it was just making my life difficult at times. For example, bending over to look in the refrigerator, or picking something off the floor was a challenge. Five years ago I would have chalked it up to “old age” but now I know better.

Sleeping Position

One of the first things my chiropractor did was ask me how I sleep. I usually sleep halfway on my side and partly on my stomach with one leg drawn up. She told me that I needed to cut that out and sleep on either my back or my side. I cannot sleep on my back, I've never been comfortable that way, so I've been trying to train myself to sleep on my side. Just a couple weeks earlier I'd read on OraWellness that it's bad to sleep on your stomach because you could be making your teeth crooked! So, two reasons to train myself to sleep on my side.

Worn out or Bad Shoes

Clarks Collection 26065748Last week my chiropractor says, “I'm going to spend some of your money for you. I want you to get yourself a new pair of shoes. I'll give you some brand names to look for, have fun shopping!”

I've been wearing the same pair of shoes to work, and at home when I need to have shoes on, for probably three years. The brand was Isotoner, so they were probably good supportive shoes at one time. I've been telling myself that I need a new pair of shoes. I did get a pair from Ross Dress for Less, but they hurt my feet so I donated them to Savers (I'd worn them too many days to return them). I asked a friend if she would come shoe shopping with me and we went after work to one of the outlet malls.

While trying on shoes, I noticed just how bad my Isotoner's had gotten. I knew there were worn spots where my toes touch, but I had not realized how badly the left side of the left shoe heel had been worn. I found a pair of Clark's sandals and wore them out of the mall. It seemed like right away my back was feeling better. By the way, I found them at Famous Footwear for $41.99. I don't know if I've ever paid that much for a pair of shoes in my entire life!

I thought it was a good call on my chiropractor's part to look to my shoes. If she were the kind of chiropractor who has clients coming in three times a week, maybe she wouldn't have done that kind of troubleshooting.

Walking and Exercise

When my chiropractor told me to buy myself a new pair of shoes, she also told me I needed to get more exercise. She said she wanted me walking at least 10-15 minutes every day. I told her I was pretty sure I was getting that much walking in at work, and she asked me to get an app for my smart phone and just be sure. I downloaded an app but it was kind of a pain because it wouldn't work unless my phone screen was active. My sister really wanted me to get into FitBit but I decided to get just a simple pedometer that I could wear in my pocket. It was much cheaper and so far I'm happy with it. On the days I'm at work, I am walking from 2 to 4 miles so I was kind of impressed to see that!

My chiropractor also gave me an exercise to do that is supposed to help my back become stronger. I think she'll give me more exercises as time goes by. I've also been trying to remember to do leg lifts while in bed since I think those help the lower back.


I knew there was another possible culprit for my lower back pain. Our bed. My husband brought home a memory foam topper that was three inches thick. It seemed really comfortable, but at the same time it seemed to hold onto my body as I would try to turn in bed – we were also using a flannel sheet. I couldn't tell if it was the flannel sheet causing the problem, or the memory foam topper. I kept thinking it seemed to be having a deleterious effect on my lower back, but I couldn't tell for sure. My husband kept saying he really liked the mattress topper, so I was a little reluctant to tell him I thought it was affecting my back.

When I finally mentioned it to him, he admitted the topper actually made it difficult to change the sheets. So we removed it and the very next day my back felt better. Now having slept without it for three nights, my back feels back to normal. No weird stiffness or tightness. I'm really glad that my back feels so much better,  especially since my chiropractor will be out of town this week. I'm thinking she'll put me on an every other week schedule once she gets back.

I did some searching on the Internet and found some sites that describe the feeling of sleeping on a memory foam bed as not being able to move on the bed, of feeling as if one is “sunk in wet sand”. That is a good description. There is also talk about hip pain along with the lower back pain, and hip pain was a component in my lower back pain. I can't remember how long we've been sleeping on the memory foam topper – I don't think it has been too long. This article is one that I read which warns that memory foam mattresses or toppers are not the best for someone with lower back pain.


I decided to start trying to take Glucosamine Chondrotin with MSM (this is one of Dr. Karen Lee's recommendations) on a regular basis to see if that would help. My mom gave me a bottle a few months ago when my hands were bothering me and it did help. I also take the herbal calcium my sister recommends, although I can't take it every single day or I end up with joint pain. I haven't researched it, but I'm pretty sure some of the herbs are high in oxalates. I can tolerate taking it a couple times a week. I am still off dairy and readily admit I don't make broth as often as I should. That would be a source of calcium if I made a point to do that.

So I did a few things to help my lower back pain. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping it won't “go out” again, but if it does, I'm glad I have a chiropractor in my corner to help me figure things out.

I'm really glad she's helping me to troubleshoot instead of just having me come in three times a week for the rest of my life. It really does seem to be a better solution to figure out if there is anything contributing to the problem, instead of having to just keep fixing and adjusting week after week.

Do you suffer from lower back pain? I hope you can eliminate the cause by trying some of these troubleshooting tips that worked for me.

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16 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Lower Back Pain

  1. My job is very sedentary, which is something that I am not used to! Recently, however, due to the amount of time I spend sitting, my lower back has been hurting. I really like that your chiropractor recommended walking to help you with your back pain. I haven’t taken my exercise quite as seriously since I got my job, so your suggestion to get at least 10-15 minutes of walking in a day was a great reminder that getting back into shape could help me to relieve my back pain. I will definitely follow your example, get some type of tracker for my steps, and start taking my exercise more seriously. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi Meg, you are welcome! I have been happy to see how many steps I am getting in. I thought I was super sedentary but as it turns out I actually walk from 2-5 miles every day. I hope you will be inspired when you see how many steps you are getting in! I am sure it is more than you think and maybe you could take the long way round to places you have to go (like the ladies room or cafeteria or break room). When the weather cools down here in Arizona I’m going to start walking around the block for more steps. Thanks for your comment! ~Starlene

  3. I hope I am inspired, too! I think that it definitely will motivate me to take the long way around the office or to get out of the house more. I think that I will be surprised at how active I already am and how active I can be. Thank you for the response!

  4. Your sleeping position is the first thing you should change when you start experiencing back pain. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs is a good way to take pressure off your spine. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. My husband started having miserable back pain on a trip years ago – we chalked it up to an absolutely terrifying night drive of over an hour in pitch black darkness through back roads in the Mojave desert – and ever since then he’s had off and on terrible lower back pain. Which makes sense, considering what you said about recurring episodes. I’m glad to hear that visiting a chiropractor is helping your pain. We’ll have to look into a chiropractor for him!

  6. What are your thoughts on middle-upper back pain? My thoracic spine is particularly bad right now. The vertebrae are always stiff from the only positions my baby will nurse in, and nursing for 20-45 minutes every feeding. I wish they made more supportive nursing bras!

  7. Jenn – of course I’m not a doctor but the first thing that comes to mind for your situation would be to wonder if you are getting enough calcium? I actually take an herbal calcium since I don’t tolerate dairy well. I can eat it, but it congests my sinuses, and can cause me to wheeze so I try to avoid it if possible. Not knowing how old you are, I also wonder if the Glucosamine Chondrotin with MSM would help with the stiffness. I find that I am much more flexible when I take it regularly. But then again, I’m 52. I know that pregnant and nursing women do need extra calcium, so I would just wonder about that to see if it would help your back pain and stiffness. I hope your baby will soon agree to nursing in more comfortable positions! Best, Starlene P.S. Thank you for visiting and I’m honored you felt comfortable asking me your question!

  8. Wow, I had no idea that worn out shoes could cause back pain. My back has been hurting for the last few days, I had no idea what was wrong with it. Now that I read this though, I think it’s because the shoes I wear a really old. I’ll make sure I get some new ones soon to see how much they help. Thanks a ton for the help.

  9. I love these tips! I have found that sleeping with a pillow between my legs really helps with my lower back pain. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I really appreciate this information on troubleshooting lower back pain. My family has a history of lower back pain, and although I am trying to combat it, I feel like I have already started having some problems. It is interesting that you mention the importance of throwing out worn or bad shoes to avoid back pain. You mention that you got a lot of these tips from your chiropractor, and I think it is important that all people talk to their chiropractors to see what can help them as well. Thanks for the information!

  11. Starlene, the advice that you gave about how it’s bad to sleep on your stomach sure got my attention. It’s actually something that my wife reminded me how I would often do that during the night. I’m guessing because of that my back has been feeling some pain especially around the mid-section of my spine.

  12. I agree that sleeping position has a lot to do with lower back pain. I have tried to maintain a good sleeping position but have found that it can be hard to do. I am trying to work on having the right sleeping position. So far, an imperfect sleeping position has not led to serious back pain for me, but I know that this is something I need to pay attention to just in case.

  13. i like it my wife reminded me how I would often do that during the night. I’m guessing because of that my back has been feeling some pain especially around the mid-section of my spine.

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