As human beings, it’s almost impossible to avoid back pain. At one time or another, we will suffer from some type of back pain. Back pain has many causes, but most often it is due to a dysfunction in the way your vertebrae, (the bones of your spine), spinal joints, discs, muscles, and nerves are working. A healthy spine means that all parts are working together.
Most of us don’t give much thought to our back until it starts to ache. Picking up a heavy object incorrectly, stretching the wrong way, an auto accident, and slouching over our desks at work, can all contribute to upper, middle, and low back pain. As you age, the donut-shaped “intervertebral discs” that sit in between each of the vertebrae that act like cushions that absorb pressure on the spine may wear out or get damaged.
Here are 6 ways to relieve back pain no matter where you are:
1. Exercise, but gently
Movement is life. The doctor may recommend rest for a day or two if you’ve had a back injury, however, as soon as you’re able to get up and walk—do it. Active healing is recommended even if you have had back surgery. Moving and taking care of yourself boosts healing a lot faster than lying around. Not moving can trigger other complications, such as loss of muscle strength. Gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, or doing yoga, can help you heal a lot faster. Exercise also gives you a sense of control and accomplishment. If your chiropractor has given you at-home exercises, perform the exercises to the best of your ability as many times a day as recommended. Avoiding exercise altogether will prolong the time it takes for you to heal and you will also be in pain longer, and who would want that?
2. Get out that icy hot
Both heat and cold help to heal and reduce pain. Heat brings circulation to the painful area on your back. Ice packs help to reduce inflammation and swelling. You can alternate ice and heat if that feels good to you. Use a cold pack about three times a day or more for about 10-15 minutes. It can be used in conjunction with heat therapy for the best possible relaxation of muscles and joints. If you are using an electric heating pad, make sure you don’t fall asleep with it. Never put an ice pack directly on your skin; always use a towel. Your chiropractor may provide reusable heating pads that don’t require electricity. These can be reused up to 500 times. A reusable heating pad does get hot, so make sure to wrap it in a towel before you place it on your back.
3. Continue getting your chiropractic adjustments
Chiropractic adjustments bring your spine back into alignment. The adjustments, combined with massage therapy will ensure a faster recovery. To prevent back pain from returning, continue to get adjustments even after your back is feeling better. The spine has “memory” and will go out of alignment quite easily for a while. After you have healed, have periodic adjustments so that your back remains in top shape.
4. Protect your back at work
Slouching at your desk can cause additional damage to your neck and back. Ask your chiropractor to recommend easy exercises that you can do throughout the day to relieve pain and add flexibility. Make sure you have an ergonomic chair that supports your back. If not, there are affordable lumbar support pillows you can purchase that will take pressure off your back. Stand up and move for at least 60 seconds after 30 minutes of sitting. If you have access to a standing or walking desk, use it often. Sitting for long periods of time has been shown to have the same detrimental effects as smoking. Use your speakerphone or headset; never tuck a phone between your neck and shoulder.
If you work in a warehouse or perform tasks that require heavy lifting, speak to your doctor to determine if it is safe for you to return to work after an injury. Use your legs to lift heavy objects. If you feel something is too heavy to handle, get help, or use a forklift if necessary.
5. Lie on your side in bed
If your mattress is over eight years old, replace it. An old mattress cannot support your body and may lead to sleepless nights, which is the last thing you want when you have back pain. If you have a comfortable mattress, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs. This position relieves pressure on your back and clears waste chemicals from your brain.
Chronic back pain can make you depressed. Pain medications, whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor, provide temporary relief and are often ineffective. Meditation calms the mind and the body. When your mind is calm, you can make better decisions about how to manage your pain. Meditation is a potent painkiller, too.