Tag: back pain

As much as we would like to avoid it, the numbers show that back pain will visit most of us in our lifetime. There is, however, no need to sound the alarm bells. The most of the common cause of back pain - simple muscle strain - is usually treatable at home. Strains heal reasonably quickly and do not always require treatment from a medical professional. By utilizing a few pain-management strategies, this temporary condition can heal and soon be a distant memory.

 

Here is a list of self-care treatments that can help with back pain:

 

  • Rest: Pain can be in indication that you have done something too strenuously. The muscle(s) may need a chance to recover, and a short period of rest may assist in this recovery. Do keep this rest period short (one to two days) to avoid possibly contributing to a different problem (tightness/pain due to inactivity).
  • Ice/Heat application: Generally speaking, ice has been advised in the first 24-48 hours after injury, and heat recommended for time periods after that. Alternating between the two (heat/ice/heat/ice), known as contrast bathing or contrasting therapy, can also provide some symptomatic relief.
  • Pain medication: For back pain due to injury (especially acute/recent injury), the class of medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful for temporary relief of symptoms. These medications include ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Bayer). A pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be helpful.

 

The next step in recovery is to get moving again! There is no need to fear movement during or after an episode of back pain. The best research in back pain recovery and prevention has shown that movement is the best tool in the arsenal. First, start with awareness - notice what positions and movements relieve pain, increase pain, or have no effect at all. Move in those pain free zones and see if you can expand them over the course of a couple of days. Gentle stretching may also help relieve discomfort and help restore your normal movement patterns.

 

To be clear, physical activity is vital to maintaining a healthy back. Even during an episode of pain, regular activity and exercise help maintain joint health and muscle strength. These activities also help maintain a healthy blood flow to the tissues to promote healing. During an episode of back pain, walking and other low-impact aerobic exercises (water aerobics, for example) are appropriate as they will minimize any jarring of the spine.

If your back pain does not begin to subside within two weeks, you may want to consult with your physician. You will want to meet with your physician immediately if any of the following symptoms are also present: severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of bowel or bladder control, numbness in the legs, muscle weakness in the legs, bloody urine, or the pain suddenly travels to other areas of the back. These are all serious symptoms that require examination by a qualified medical provider.

Aside from the self care strategies mentioned above, there are many other common therapeutic interventions that can be used with back pain. There is no one correct course of action, and each person will likely respond differently to these options. Less invasive treatments include physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and personal training. More complex interventions can  include prescription pain medications and steroid injections. The most invasive option of all is surgery, but that is often the last resort after trying all other avenues.

 

Please do not let all this talk of complications and surgery scare you. Most back pain is treatable, recoverable, and in many cases preventable with the right strategies. Any of the professionals here at Worcester Fitness are ready to advise you of your options for managing back pain. In house, we have personal training, massage therapy, stretching programs, yoga, water fitness, and and many other offerings that can fit into your plan of care. So be active, stay engaged, and don’t let a little back pain stop you.

Back Pain Action Plan

By Christopher Jones, Worcester Fitness Massage Therapist

Low back pain is one of the most common pain complaints in the United States, with about 80% of people having at least one incident of back pain in their lifetime. Globally, back pain causes more disability than 291 other health problems. In one study conducted in a joint effort between Australian and US-based researchers, 20 years of data from 187 countries showed that just over one-third of work-related disability was related to low back pain. That is a lot of missed work, missed play, and missed opportunities every day. So how did we get to a point where back pain is so common?

Let’s start with a quick look at the back. The back is a strong, supportive structure made up of the bones of the spinal column (24 vertebrae, sacrum, coccyx,) the shock-absorbing discs between the vertebrae, and all of the muscles and connective tissue responsible for movement and stability of the spine. Housed within the protective confines of the spine is the spinal cord, and between the vertebrae are the nerves that extend out to all parts of the body. When the back is strong and healthy, all of these structures work harmoniously to let us work, play, and live our lives. When back pain is experienced, however, it can make it difficult to engage in even the most basic of activities.

Back pain can have many causes, including degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis), disc degeneration, bulging disc or disc herniation, spondylolisthesis (one vertebrae slips forward), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal inside the spinal cord), tumors, and infection. Please note that these conditions can be present and produce no pain symptoms whatsoever. Unfortunately, the most common type of back pain is what is called “non-specific low back pain” where there is no apparent cause for the pain. Other factors that can contribute to back pain include prolonged periods of inactivity, poor lifting techniques, high-impact sports and activities, excessive sitting, and previous back injury. A growing body or current research also points to many psychological factors (anxiety, depression, job satisfaction) as contributing to back pain.

The good news to all this is that the best preventative strategy and treatment method for back pain is to keep moving! Regular physical activity, even something as simple as walking, has been shown to be the most effective tool to prevent and recover from episodes of back pain (especially non-specific low back pain). The best evidence for back pain management shows the effectiveness of a positive outlook on recovery, engaging in as many normal daily activities as possible, maintaining an active lifestyle, and the strategic short-term use of medication when needed. Interventions like heat, physical therapy, massage therapy, yoga, and psychotherapy have also been shown to be effective additions for the treatment and prevention of back pain.

Here at Worcester Fitness, we have a team of professionals ready to help with the prevention and treatment of back pain. Whether you are looking to improve your fitness with one of our experienced trainers, looking for pain relief from our expert massage therapists, or are wanting see if yoga or one of our pool exercise classes is a good fit for you, our team is ready to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction. Back pain, despite the numbers, does not have to be something that “just happens” or keeps you from enjoying the things you love to do. With the right steps, and some expert guidance, you can get back on track!