Back pain has an amazing ability to stop you in your tracks. And most of us know the feeling. Studies show that around 80% of people experience back pain at least once in their life.
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The good news? Most episodes of back pain get better within days or weeks and do not become a chronic problem.
But you don’t have to relieve pain while lying down. (In fact, you shouldn’t.) Pain management expert Robert Bolash, MD, discusses things you can try to address this common problem.
Back pain relief at home
Most of the time, you can take care of your back pain at home. Try these things to help your back – no drugs or procedures required.
Don’t assume that you should stay in bed until your back feels better.
“Avoiding exercise can make back pain worse,” says Dr. Bolash.
“Patients who rest often feel worse. Try to keep moving and walking around as you normally would. Exercise relieves pain, strengthens your muscles, and helps you avoid future pain. “
But don’t resume the activity that originally caused the injury until your pain is gone. Once your back starts to feel better, you can start lifting again or straining, but gradually. If you do too much too quickly, you can suffer back pain again.
Use heat or ice for back pain relief
If your pain has just started, consider using cold packs. The cool down can help reduce swelling and inflammation, says Dr. Bolash. Cold packs can also provide relief by numbing some of the painful nerves.
If the swelling or inflammation subsides but you are still in pain, keep in mind that some people find a heating pad or hot bath the best for back pain something proofs that it works. Moist heat, such as that found in a hot shower, bath, or with a damp heat pad, may work better than dry heat.
“While heating an area, it can help soften your back. Use heating pads carefully as they get too hot and can burn your skin,” advises Dr. Bolash. “Don’t use them on children, older adults, or while you sleep.”
Do some yoga
You can do most of the yoga poses without special equipment. A yoga mat is helpful, but not necessary. You can also put a couple of towels on the floor for cushioning. First, try out the children’s pose:
- Start in a kneeling position.
- Move your knees to the edge of your mat and bring your big toes together. Alternatively, keep your knees together for more convenience.
- Bring your forehead to the mat and reach your arms in front of you. If that’s not comfortable, move your arms behind you.
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears.
- Hold two to three slow, deep breaths. Then carefully go back to your knees.
As with any exercise, stop when it hurts. If you have any health problems, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Find an escape from stress
Stress can cause you to subconsciously tense your muscles, including those in your back, shoulders, and neck. We cannot avoid stress, but we can lower the stress response in the body.
Managing stress healthily can relax your muscles and turn the dial down for stress-related back pain. Not sure where to start? Try one of these techniques:
- Deep breathing: When we are stressed, we tend to breathe shallowly. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes. Doing this a few times a day can relieve tension in your back.
- Meditation: This practice involves bringing your thoughts to the present moment and forgetting about everything else. Try to sit still and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. When you start thinking about something else, gently bring your mind back to your breathing.
- Relaxation training: Tense and relax the muscles in your body. Start with your toes. Squeeze them together for a few seconds, then relax. Keep going up to your calves, thighs, etc and finish with your face.
Change your workspace
Do you lean over to reach your keyboard? Or do you blink and lean over to read your computer screen?
“Sitting at our desks is a common cause of back pain,” says Dr. Bolash. “When you sit all day, it’s important to have correct ergonomics and take breaks to move – if only for a few minutes. “
Try these tips to avoid back pain in your work area:
- Make sure your head, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line.
- Position your monitor at eye level to avoid looking up and down.
- Your knees should bend at a 90-degree angle and your feet should be flat on the floor.
When should I see a doctor about back pain?
Most of the time, mild back pain responds well to home remedies. But sometimes back pain is a sign of another illness. Consult a doctor if you have back pain:
- Comes suddenly for no apparent reason.
- Is difficult or unbearable.
- Lasts more than a day or two and does not respond to over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Comes with other symptoms like fatigue or weight loss.
What kind of doctor should you see if you have back pain? “Start with your GP, who can rule out conditions that may be causing the pain,” says Dr. Bolash. “A pain management specialist or spinal specialist is an option for people with severe or persistent pain. A specialist can often work to identify the source of your pain and provide targeted treatment options. ”
Another option is to ask your doctor about a spine-certified physical therapist. These therapists specialize in back pain and guide you through exercises to solve your specific problem.
Back pain is the way your body tells you something is wrong. If the pain doesn’t get better with home remedies, then don’t ignore it – see your doctor.