You are not alone if you’re struggling with back pain. Lower back pain is common across both middle-aged men and women and can become more severe as we age.
The causes of low back pain range from simple strains to spinal disc injuries, and diseases that affect the joints, such as arthritis. Acute back pain stems from a short-term injury or severe strain and can generally be treated with rest and readjustment. Chronic causes of back pain tend to be more difficult to identify and treat. While many of the symptoms are similar, identifying the underlying causes is key to finding an effective treatment that works for you.
Oftentimes, the pain is caused by bad posture and incorrect back health, and this can be described as a ‘sitting injury’ – the old saying ‘if you don’t move it you lose it’. Or, if conducting heavy lifting or bending incorrectly, over time, this will have an impact on your spine and the muscles around the spine.
So what can you do?
There are many things you can do to live with back pain. Good back pain management starts with changing your lifestyle and your attitude towards your body, particularly your back. There is a lot you can do on your own to take ownership of your complaint, move towards recovery, and manage the pain while you get back to doing the things you love.
1. Find a good physical therapist
A physiotherapist can prescribe a healthy exercise program to help you gain strength, and improve balance and flexibility. Strengthening your back and abdominal muscles – your core – will make your spine more resilient.
Renowned author and longevity specialist Dr. Frank Lipman purports that we should seek the services of the right therapist for recovery, and states that Australian physical therapists are some of the best in the world to support soft tissue injury.
2. Keep Moving, Keep Stretching
Activities such as Pilates and Yoga will help you to engage and strengthen your core, ensuring you don’t use your back muscles unnecessarily.
Dr. Lipman further explains that yoga “helps make you more flexible and stretches your soft tissues” and suggests this is fantastic to support lower back pain, particularly the facia. “The fascia and connective tissue hold our muscles and spine together and oftentimes, poor posture injuries are when the facia tightens – if we don’t loosen the fascia, it can become a problem. If you get a tight area in one place, your body compensates in another area’. He also suggests that it’s great to get out our foam rollers “releasing the facia while lengthening the muscles”.
Manipulation is when health professionals, like an osteopath or a chiropractor, use different techniques to move your spine through its full range of movement. Some studies show that if you’ve had back pain for more than a month, this can be a safe and effective treatment for you.
The benefits of a massage are becoming more and more recognised and this may provide relief for you as you work towards building overall strength. Studies suggest that ‘massage can lower the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol; lower blood pressure; as well as reducing levels of some inflammatory proteins while increasing the production of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Patients who got regular massage were able to get through their daily activities more easily and use less pain medication than those who just got regular care.
5. Apply Cold
If pain is acute, it pays to apply cold. Reach for an ice pack first when back pain strikes. Applying ice for twenty minutes on, and twenty minutes off can help to quieten painful inflammation or muscle spasms and in combination with heat therapy, can support overall lower back pain management.
6. Apply Heat
After two or three days, consider using a heating pad, or a hot water bottle and consider taking warm baths- or even trying sauna therapy. This can relax your back muscles and stimulate blood flow. Continue to stretch warmed muscles to prevent muscle spasms after the heat source is removed.
7. Rest when needed
Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only won’t help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery.
That said, it is important to give the back a rest after strenuous lifting or repetitive strain on the back. Just like the rest of the body and mind, recovery, or rest, time is essential for a balanced lifestyle. Listen to your body and treat it with respect.
8. Medicate when necessary
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can halt inflammatory pain temporarily. “Pulsed dosing — consistently taking the medicine two to three times per day for five to 10 days, even after the pain subsides — is more reasonable than ‘as-needed’ dosing,” says Dr. Mayer. (with medical advice)
9. Maintain Social Connections
Social connections are extremely important to recovery. Continuing to keep up with your friends and family and social commitments, and putting meaning behind life can make a huge difference to your state of mind and recovery.
Combining a wide array of procedures -including the range of suggestions from therapies above – in a comprehensive pain management plan can reduce pain and improve functionality. But, if back pain becomes chronic and persistent, don’t wait too long to see a specialist. “Back pain does not have to destroy your quality of life,” notes pain management specialist Ellen Rosenquist, MD.
In most cases, acute back pain will get better within three to six weeks.
Some people can develop recurrent or persistent back pain, however, working with your healthcare team and using self-management techniques will lead to the best outcomes. It is important to understand that, even with persistent back pain, most people are able to remain at work and lead a full life.
Remaining positive and patient when overcoming back pain is key to getting a long-term recovery. And, remember to STRETCH as much as possible.
*This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. In rare cases, lower back pain can be serious, and hence persistent backache should not be ignored. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.