What this spurned me to write about is what many of us have had to do a whole lot of a couple of weeks ago: shovel snow. There was at least 4 feet of snow, not to mention the 7-12 foot drifts we had to deal with just to get our cars in sight, let alone down the driveway. Chances are, unless you have a snow blower or a good friend with a payloader, you were out there- like me, shoveling for hours.
Shoveling is not fun. Unless you're The Hulk, in which case I am sure a few minutes of shoveling would be mildly comical and quite productive. For the rest of us, we get to deal with the pain in our lower back that seems to stay for days or weeks after The Shoveling Incident. I know there may be a few of us who remember that whole "bend with your knees to save your back!" saying, and it's true- however, if you're still twisting around at the waist and not your hips, you're gonna have a bad time. What I tell my clients to do when they have to shovel is pretend you have headlights on the front of your hips- picture where the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine is- or in layman's terms, the bony part of the front of the hip- see the picture here. Always keep your "headlights" facing where you're working- this will move your entire spine in the direction of the movement, instead of twisting your back at or around the lower part of the thorassic spine. That movement can effectively pop out a disc in the lumbar spine- in other words, "throwing your back out". We do not like this. It hurts. It's not fun. You end up in the worst pain since childbirth (if you are a woman OR a man!)
So let's say you are amazing and awesome and you actually know to move your body the right way and you still end up with a tight lower back (all in the lumbar area, if you look at the previous picture). This is still ok. Just go inside the house and put ice... yes, ICE on your lower back for at least 20-30 minutes to bring down the swelling. THEN.. (you'll love this part) take a bath in epsom salts. I love to use Walgreen's brand of epsom salts with Eucalyptus already in it- it's called Eucalyptus Soak. The eucalyptus helps to relieve muscle tension and swelling I usually turn the water as hot as it goes, load up the tub with 6-8 cups of the epsom salts and when it's about halfway full, I turn the cold water on, just so that I can actually get into the tub without scalding myself. Now, if you are sensitive to heat, I would not recommend this. However, try to get the water as warm as you can handle it in order for the soak to do it's job.
If you do not have the luxury of taking a bath, then you can also use a small towel - a hand or hair towel- and place it in a hot water filled bin with the epsom salts already dissolved in it. Soak the towel for a while and move it around so that it really gets all the salts in it, wring it out and place it on the offending muscles. Then call your massage therapist to make an appointment. :)
If that all does not work (which it should) then also take an Aleve, or Ibruprofen to continue to bring down the inflammation.
My advice as a therapist? Leave The Hulk to do all the shoveling while you stay inside a warm house, preferably in front of a roaring fire, sipping wine or hot chocolate... and book your next appointment for relaxation instead of for pain management!