Back pain…you’ve had it for a while and after reading tons of material online, you are having nightmares that you might end up in surgery. But wait! That isn’t entirely true. Surgery is only necessary in very severe cases and usually, back pain resolves with simple yet effective treatments that you can easily do on your own. Surgery can be avoided in many spinal conditions.
It is advisable though that before starting any treatment, consult with a medical professional so that your treatment is tailored according to your specific condition which is causing the pain.
Goals for managing back pain
- Maintaining the ability to perform the day to day activities at home and at work
- Providing enough pain relief so that it is possible to carry out any physical therapy or exercises.
- Preventing further stress or injury through good body mechanics and proper posture.
Non-surgical treatments for back pain:
Here are some common non-surgical methods or approaches that can be employed to seek back pain relief.
1. Heat or ice
Apply a cold pack or a heating pad on the painful area for relieving pain. This is one of the best remedies that you can do at home. For some people, one might work better than the other, while for some, alternating between the two works best.
Applying ice packs is preferred as compared to the heat because ice reduces the inflammatory process so it is preferred to be used first. Apply for 20 minutes and then give your skin a rest. You can use heat a couple of days when the inflammation has subsided.
2. Watch your posture
This has got to be one of the most important factors which affect the back and cause pain. Pain in the back for most people occurs due to a poor mattress, a worn out chair at the work station or an improper sitting posture, with slouching as a major contributor. All of these put excessive stress on the spine, and if a proper posture isn’t maintained over a period of time, it will result in back pain. Be especially careful of your posture while lifting heavy objects.
3. Maintaining good ergonomics
Make sure to design your seating or workspace so that you don’t hunch forward. Use a chair and a mattress that supports the normal curvature of your back. Bending forward all the time puts a strain on the back and makes it harder for the back to support the body weight.
4. Workout and keep moving
Don’t let the pain in the back make you lay in the bed all day. Get up and get going. Do the usual daily tasks. Make the bed, walk the dog, do the groceries. Once the pain is a little better, do exercises that support the back. This will help make your back stronger. Just don’t overdo them.
5. Let go of that habit
Researches have lately found out that smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become weak and brittle and hence are easily fractured. Compression fractures are common in smokers, so try to let go of that habit and lead a healthy lifestyle.
6. Keep the weight in check
Eat nutritiously, drink lots of water and reduce weight if you are obese. Excessive weight puts stress on the spine and leads to back pain. Diets including processed foods, refined sugars and trans-fats should be avoided as these are highly inflammatory.
7. Ditch the high heels
Wearing high heels creates an imbalance in the posture and puts pressure on the feet, ankles, knees as well as the spine. If you are still adamant on wearing heels, wear the one inch ones or kitten heels instead.
8. Over-the-counter pain medicines
Anti-inflammatory drugs are very helpful in reducing back pain. These are usually available over-the-counter and include Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) and others. Be sure to check with the pharmacist or your doctor of any side effects or drug interactions before taking these medicines, especially people who are already suffering from liver or kidney problems. Muscle relaxants or steroids may also be prescribed in some cases.
9. Get that massage
Massage therapy is thought to improve back pain for a lot of people. It improves blood flow, reduces muscle stiffness and makes the spine more flexible.
10. Visit a physical therapist
If you are unsure of what kind of exercises will be specific to your condition, it’s better to bring in the professionals rather than experimenting on your own. Physical therapists or chiropractors can help relief your pain by manual manipulation. This reduces pressure on the spine, increases flexibility and blood flow and reduces tension in the muscles.
A combination of back exercises and physical therapy will show great results. These include a combination of stretching, strengthening and low-impact aerobic exercises.
11. Stay positive
Having a good outlook on life can do wonders to treat any illness you have. Practice mindfulness and meditation to relax yourself and to get rid of the frustration, depression and irritability.
You can also opt for cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on teaching relaxation and calming techniques as well as coping mechanisms to patients. This helps in reducing stress and also has an effect on reducing muscle tension, blood pressure as well as heart rate.
Electrotherapy, called TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) is also being used nowadays to treat pain. This attempts to reduce pain by means of a low voltage electric stimulation that interacts with sensory nervous system.