First aid when back pain strikes

When back pain strikes, take the right action in the early stages and you can increase your chances of returning to normal activities quickly. 90% Of back pain sufferers will recover in 6 weeks.

There are a number of steps you can take if you are suffering acute pain:

Keep moving
Traditional advice was bed rest for a bad back. Research shows that this is counterproductive and can prolong the problem. If you can, continue your daily activities but do take extra care when lifting. Help protect your spine by engaging your core muscles when lifting, twisting, bending, pushing or pulling. Learn more about how to engage your core muscles here

Use pain killing medication
If the pain is affecting your ability to function normally, use paracetamol or ibuprofen to give you short-term relief. It’s not advisable to use painkillers long-term so if your pain persists, seek professional help.

Use heat or cold to relieve the pain
If your back pain is the result of inflammation, an ice pack or bag of something from the freezer could help reduce swelling and ease the pain. If, however, you are experiencing muscular pain, heat could provide necessary relief. A hot water bottle or warm bath are both good options to get heat into the area. Chances are though, you won’t know whether your pain is muscular or inflammatory so the best thing to do is try both heat and cold and use the one which provides the most relief.

Exercise
By strengthening the lumbar extensors and surrounding muscles, you will provide essential support for your spine. Not only will this ease your pain, it will also help prevent further attacks. Here are 4 exercises which can help if you’re suffering from acute pain. If you are new to exercise, or are unsure what to do, you should see a physiotherapist or back care professional.

Massage
A deep-tissue or sports massage can help relieve tension in sore muscles, stretch the soft tissue structures and break down any adhesions which may be inhibiting function and causing pain. Short-term, massage is an excellent solution for immediate pain relief.

Finally, if your pain lasts longer than 6 weeks, you should seek help from a back pain specialist. You could see your GP but it’s likely that all they will be able to do is prescribe medication or refer you to a NHS physio which can be a lengthy process.

A common factor linking chronic low back pain is insufficient strength of the core and lumbar muscles. Read more here about how strengthening exercises can help with chronic pain. When you look for a professional, try to find one who will include progressive strengthening exercise as part of your rehab programme.

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