Back pain is a common complaint that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. It is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK.
Why does your back hurt!
The most common causes of back pain result from strained muscles, sprained ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress. Your back pain symptoms may be continuous and dull or sudden and sharp, lasting from only a few days to several weeks.
Back pain that has no serious underlying cause is often referred to as ‘non-specific back pain’. You may have sat at your desk with bad posture, your seat was too high or low, sneezed or coughed whilst your body was twisted, slept too long in an awkward position or lifted something too heavy.
Most back pain is caused by bad posture creating unbalances between your muscles and joints. Although it can be very painful, back pain isn’t serious in most cases and it’s only considered “chronic” if pain lasts longer than six weeks.
Lower back pain is more common than upper or middle back pain. This is because the vertebrae are more flexible in your lower back. Pain that moves down the buttocks and one leg may be symptoms of sciatica or a slipped disc.
The knock on effects from back pain can lead to absence from work, missing out on your favourite sporting activity, hobby or just limit your ordinary daily activities.
The good news is that there are things you can do to manage your pain.
Top 5 Tips for Managing Back Pain
1 Cold or Heat Therapy
Cold and heat therapies are effective methods of non medicinal pain relief. The general advice is that cold therapy is used initially for acute injuries and heat for more chronic pain.
Cold therapy is ideal for the immediate and acute treatment of muscle strains, sprains and minor back injuries. Applying cold will slow down blood flow, thereby reducing inflammation, muscle spasm and pain.
An ice pack or a bag of frozen peas is ideal for use, but these should never be placed directly on the skin as this can cause cold burns. Be sure to wrap it in a wet towel or cloth to avoid this from happening.
If possible apply cold therapy within 5-10 minutes of injury for between 15 and 20 minutes.
Heat applied to the body speeds up the local blood circulation, increasing the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients. Heat therapy is ideal for easing and relaxing stiff muscles and it dissipates soreness in muscles and joints.
A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, a heating pad or a wheat bag are ideal for heat therapy. Do not apply any heat to any area for any longer than 20 minutes. Do not use on areas that are swollen, have decreased senstation, have thin skin or have undergone radiation treatment. Seek medical opinion before using heat therapy if you suffer from diabetes or circulatory problems.
Pliable gel packs are handy as they can be used hot or cold!
For back pain that is associated with serious underlying problems please check with your GP or consultant before using hot or cold therapy.
2 Stay active
Unless your back pain is due to a serious injury, an operation or any other serious underlying cause, it is recommended that you stay as active as possible. Less serious back problems will resolve more quickly if you stay active.
If you take to rest and do nothing, then your pain could worsen and your natural movements become even more restricted. The trick here is to use a paced approach, rather than overdoing or underdoing it
Try to continue with daily routines and tasks that don’t cause you too much pain. Everyone is different so it’s up to you to be sensible and not to overdo it.
Gentle exercises will help you from ceasing up further by stretching your muscles and tendons. If you can, take your back through controlled normal ranges of movement to prevent it from locking or causing other surrounding muscles to spasm or stiffen up.
When you are up to it try walking further. Walking is good aerobic exercise and gets blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase strength.
Try to go swimming; this will help with frequent backache and pain. It is non weight bearing exercise as your body is supported by the water.
When you are fit enough why not try Yoga or Pilates, they are a great way of maintaining a healthy good posture, strength and flexibility.
3 Stay positive
Research suggests that people who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover more quickly and avoid long term back pain. Why not engage yourself in some things you can do that you would normally put off when you are busy rushing around.
What about making those phone calls you need to make and have been putting off. There will be numerous things you can still do that won’t cause you further pain.
Remember that non-specific back pain will gradually subside through being positive and taking action to resolve it.
Negative thoughts, depression and anxiety make your body tense which can make your back pain worse.
Yes, you can lie there rolled in a ball or you can find something better to do!
4 A good night’s sleep
If it is comfortable to lie on your side, draw your knees slightly towards your chest and place a firm pillow or rolled towel between your knees. This will take the pressure of your lower back and prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment. If you prefer to sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees, this will help to maintain the natural lumbar curve in your back and decrease stress in your spine.
When you turn over avoid twisting at the waist, move your entire body as one unit and pull in your abdomen.
Make sure you are warm enough, not having enough covers on your bed or a sleeping in a draughty room can cause tension in muscles leading to further pain and discomfort.
A good mattress is the first building block for a good night’s sleep. A mattress that is too firm will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment. A soft mattress won’t support those pressure points and will allow you to sink into the mattress causing uneven stresses on your body.
A medium to firm mattress is now generally considered to be good for maintaining a healthy back but that is just general guidance and does not mean that is best for you. It is always advisable to test a potentially correct mattress for yourself before spending your money. Remember to check the manufacturer guidelines about mattress care, for example how often you should turn it over or around.
5 Over the counter painkillers
For short-term pain relief, over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be taken. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gels such as Ibuprofen gel are normally very effective and can be topically applied directly to the painful area.
Make sure you speak to your pharmacist or GP to discuss what is suitable for you.
If you also have any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical treatment:
- Sudden onset of acute back pain.
- Numbness and tingling down both legs.
- Progressive weakness in your arms or legs.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Acute, severe stomach pain along with low back pain.
- Have suffered a recent trauma, such as a fall or car accident.
- Other symptoms of illness, such as fever, as well as back pain.
- Swelling or deformity along the spine.
Get help now!
There are many therapies and treatments that healthcare professionals and physical therapists can offer to help you manage your back pain.
Fit n Well offer the following therapies to help your back pain:
Sports Therapy Clinic (link)
- Massage therapy
- Trigger Point Therapy
- Dry Needling (Medical Acupuncture)
Holistic Therapies (link)
- Holistic Therapies
- Hot Stones Massage
To discuss your back pain problem and discover which treatments will be most beneficial for you call Maria on 07977 427644, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the contact form (link)
There’s no need to suffer in silence!