Back Pain Relief
How to Deal with Back Pain
Back pain affects tens of millions of people in the United States, and it can be notoriously difficult to control. Regardless of where your back pain is localized or how intense it is, the first step is to have its cause properly diagnosed by a doctor. This will make managing back pain and related complications easier, and will help you move down the road to recovery more quickly.
Muscle strains, herniated discs, and a pre-herniation condition known as "bulging discs" or "slipped discs" are among the most common causes of back pain. Strains to back muscles tend to arise from poor body mechanics, overuse of back muscles, or improper form when performing activities such as heavy lifting.
Herniated discs occur when the jelly-like substance contained in each of your vertebrae pushes through the sac that contains it, putting pressure on surrounding nerves and muscles and causing pain, which can be severe. A bulging or slipped disc occurs when a small tear develops in the vertebral sac, allowing a small amount of the jelly-like substance to escape. Discomfort is relatively minor, but it is a warning sign that a herniated disc may soon result.
Treatments for Back Pain
The successful management and treatment of back pain depends on accurately identifying its underlying cause. However, there are some commonalities among the strategies used to manage back pain, including spinal stenosis. They include:
- Medications. Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are both available over the counter and have been clinically proven to ease most types of back pain. Steroidal drugs may be prescribed if you have a herniated or slipped disc, and in cases of severe, acute back pain, your doctor may temporarily prescribe an opioid analgesic to help get your symptoms under control. Muscle relaxants are generally recommended if the pain has a muscular cause, and low-dosage formulations of certain antidepressants have been shown to ease cases of chronic back pain.
- Exercise. One of the major challenges to treating back pain is that the back has relatively limited blood flow compared to the rest of the body, and blood is the vehicle by which your body's natural healing mechanisms are delivered. Exercises such as walking and running force your spine to gently expand and contract with each step, which increases blood flow and therefore speeds healing. As soon as you feel able, you should begin a walking or jogging program with your doctor's approval.
- Physical therapy. This is one of the mainstays of back pain treatment. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen your back, decreasing the likelihood of future injury, while educating you on proper body mechanics to help you avoid postures, movements, and activities that lead to back problems.
- Injections. If your back pain does not respond to front-line treatments, your doctor may suggest injecting inflammation-fighting drugs directly to your back; However, as this comes with some degree of risk, your doctor will likely want to exhaust all other avenues first.
- Holistic treatments. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and yoga are all widely recommended to people who are suffering from back pain and want an alternative to mainstream medicine.
- Surgery. While this option is generally a last resort, surgery can provide lasting relief from numerous types of back pain; However, back surgery carries serious risks, especially in the case of spinal surgery. Recovery periods can be very long, too, so you will only want to consider back surgery if nothing else is providing relief.
Tips for Avoiding Back Pain
Prevention is the best cure for back pain, so keep these important pointers in mind for once you have made a full recovery:
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy body weight
- Choose low-impact activities; doctors generally recommend walking and swimming to people with a history of back problems
- Always maintain proper posture while walking, standing, sitting, or working on a computer
- When lifting heavy items, let your legs do the work -- not your back
Finally, keep a positive mindset. While back pain can be debilitating, it is temporary in most cases, and it will improve in time with proper care and treatment.