How to treat back pain
Chances are that everyone will suffer from some sort of back pain at some point in their life. Yet despite this, we seem so ill-equipped to deal with it. Only this week I had a customer who’s back pain was so bad that she had to be admitted to hospital and given morphine for the pain. She was sent home a few days later with the hospital being unable to help her any further. I’ve had a similar experience myself when my back decided it didn’t much like its usual job of being a back and instead turned into a seething mass of irritating nerve pain. It was so bad I thought I’d slipped a disc. I ended up seeing a nurse, who, while being very nice, knew less about the human spine than I did. My examination consisted of me pointing to where my back pain was and being told I hadn’t slipped a disc as I still had full control of bowels. I told her that I was pretty sure that’s not how it works. None the less I was sent home with a big bag of drugs and told to rest.
So, if you do ever have the misfortune to suffer this kind of acute back pain, what do you do? Well, as a therapist and a sufferer of back pain here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that might help. I will base this advice on a typical situation that I have both seen and experienced myself.
Let’s say you’ve either woken up with excruciating back pain or you were exercising and something “kinda” went at some point through your session. You’re in agony and can barely stand up straight, let alone walk or perform simple tasks.
How Bad is it? If it’s really unimaginably bad then your first port of call should really be a doctor. There’s very little a massage will do for you at this stage, or at least in my experience. When this has happened to me Codeine has helped with the pain but tends to turn me into a bit of a zombie. Generally, I reach for an anti-inflammatory such as Diclofenac or Naproxen. Obviously, I’m not a doctor so don’t take my advice on what drugs to take. For me, these types of medications help get me moving again. When this occurs I can start following some of the other steps that are still to come. If you not keen on taking such medications, then you’re in for a much slower recovery. Or at least in my experience, you are.
Give it a couple of days. If like me you’ve chosen to take an anti-inflammatory drug of some kind it’s time to let them get to work. Again, a massage at this point might not get you the results you’re looking for. Too many painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories and you’ll barely feel a thing. That’s not to say that it won’t help, but a couple of days of being active will probably help more at this stage.
Be active. As much as you may want to sit around and rest, movement will help you more. I find walking especially helpful. The gentle undulation of the pelvis while walking can really help mobilise the lower back. If you’re quite experienced in exercise then some stretching and gentle mobilisation might help considerably. If not, best just keep active for fear of potentially making things worse.
Warmth is your friend. Providing there’s no bruising or swelling, then applying heat will most likely help too. If there’s bruising or swelling then you may have torn a muscle and a cold compress may be of more help. Google the acronym P.O.L.I.C.E for more information.
Get a massage. Hopefully, things have begun to calm down and massage will help significantly. Might be a bit painful, but it’ll be worth it. Once some of those muscles have been relaxed off a little bit you’ll feel like you’ve turned a corner.
Off to see the Osteopath. In my years of suffering from on and off back pain, I’ve been to many different types of therapists. Some great ones and some truly awful ones, but a good Osteopath is worth their weight in gold. If I’m treating someone with the kind of acute back pain that we’ve been talking about I always recommend a visit to see one. Not just to deal with the acute back pain itself, but to help deal with all the other fallout that may have happened during the ordeal. A few days of not being able to stand up straight can have an effect on the rest of the spine and is something that a few quick checks and adjustments can prevent from getting any worse. If you’ve never been to one before then I think it’s worth it just for the peace of mind.
Don’t quit the care routine too soon. When things have calmed down a lot it’s all too tempting to call time on the therapy. Don’t! Keep on top of things, you’re recovery process is still ongoing.
Exercise! Yup, the last and generally everyone’s least favourite part. When we have these type of problems there is almost always one consistent reason for them. That is we were simply asking too much of a muscle or group of muscles and they were simply not strong enough to contend with what we were asking them to do. Exercise is the longterm key to preventing these problems from reoccurring. Hopefully, you would have picked up some advice along the way on this painful journey and will be able to implement what you have been told. If you’re experienced with exercise, apply what you have learned and analyse what you have been doing in the past and make the necessary corrections. If you’re not that experienced then a good personal trainer might be the next best step. Ignore the importance of exercise at your folly.
Well, as I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I really hope it helps should you ever suffer from this kind of acute back pain. It can be a torturous experience and a little bit of simple information can go a long way. The help and advice is out there and available if you need it. There’s no need to suffer needlessly.