80% Of the population will suffer from back pain at some stage in their life and we spend £565 million each year on associated private healthcare.
The good news is, 90% of back pain will go away on its own within 6 weeks. If you are unfortunate enough to be struck down with acute back pain, there are ways to help yourself recover faster and prevent the pain becoming chronic and harder to treat.
Traditional advice for back pain was always to rest. Nowadays, with continued research proving the opposite, the best thing you can do is to keep moving. If you stay in bed, your muscles are likely to stiffen further and weaken which will in turn cause greater pain. Now, we’re not talking jumping around in an aerobics class here, but make sure you continue your day-to-day activities. Be aware of your posture and avoid heavy lifting but if you do have to do any light lifting make sure you apply correct technique.
Our joints contain synovial fluid which help lubricate them and ease stiffness. The more the joint moves, the more fluid is produced. Maintain movement of the joint to promote fluid production. Simple stretches will aid flexibility of the surrounding muscles to ensure movement at the joints.
Use Painkillers if Necessary
Long-term use of painkillers as a back pain remedy isn’t advised but for short-term relief try paracetamol or ibuprofen. The latter also acts as an anti-inflammatory so can help reduce any swelling which may be present.
Hot and Cold
This is a source of confusion for many people-do you use ice or heat for your back pain? The general rule of thumb is ice for the first 48 hours and heat thereafter. Ice reduces any initial swelling, numbs the area to provide pain relief and can also slow the neurological response to pain, causing the brain to transmit less pain messages to the brain.
The best way to apply ice is via an ice pack but failing that, grab a bag of peas from the freezer. Don’t ever apply it directly onto the skin, always wrap the ice pack/peas in a tea towel first and don’t apply for longer than 20 minutes.
Heat, in turn, increases circulation to the affected area meaning more nutrients are transported to damaged tissues and eases muscle spasm by promoting relaxation. To apply heat, relax in a warm bath or use a hot water bottle on the affected area.
Get Some Hands-on Therapy
A light massage can work wonders for acute back pain. If the pain is caused by a spasm, a massage can help reduce the tightness. If tissues have been damaged, by working longitudinally along the fibres the production of scar tissue and adhesions can be reduced. Massage in the first 48 hours, however, is not advised.
Prevent Further Attacks
The best way to guard against future attacks is to get strong. The stronger our muscles, the better supported our joints are and the spine is no exception. Aim to strengthen the low back and core muscles through Pilates or specific core exercises.