Helpful Ways To Manage Back Pain
If you are currently experiencing back pain or have experienced it before, then you know just how excruciating and draining it can be. It can quickly take a toll on your life and prevent you from working, caring for family, and enjoying your hobbies. Memorial Hospital of Converse County wants you to restore your routine, so we are providing you with some methods to manage your back pain.
There are two main categories of back injuries—acute and chronic—and management strategies for each are different. Acute back pain develops suddenly; it may be caused by a traumatic injury, such as a forceful twist or a fall. Typically, non-emergency acute back injuries fully resolve with rest, heat or ice, and anti-inflammatories. However, if you suspect something more serious, consult your family physician to receive appropriate treatment.
Chronic back pain typically lasts longer than three months and can be caused by a past traumatic injury, degenerative changes that occur with age, and genetics, amongst other factors.
Management strategies for chronic back pain include:
- Calming the symptoms
- Addressing environmental contributions and attempting to remove or modify them
- Taking steps to prevent further progression of the injury.
Many strategies can help calm or block the pain pathways that transmit signals to your brain. Ice and heat are both standard methods. Ice is typically used for more acute back injuries but may also help in some chronic cases. It causes your blood vessels to constrict, so there is less circulation and inflammation to the site of injury. One way to use ice therapy is to rest an ice pack on the affected area with a pillowcase or towel between your skin and the pack. Alternatively, freeze water in disposable cups and have someone massage the painful areas. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, two to three times per day.
Apply heat to more chronic injuries, and it works by stimulating blood flow to the affected area for healing and decreasing tissue stiffness. Heating pads and hot showers are excellent ways to apply heat at home for 15-to-20-minute increments once or twice per day. Rehabilitation specialists can access other heat remedies that may help, such as ultrasound and diathermy.
Massage and electrical stimulation are modalities that provide input to the affected part and prevent pain signals from traveling to the brain. Have a relative or friend massage your back or see a licensed massage therapist for treatment. Massages are typically 30 minutes to 60 minutes long. Electrical stimulation is delivered via electrodes that send pulsed currents through the skin to reach deeper tissues. There are many electrical current patterns, and some are better for certain injuries than others; rehabilitation professionals often have access to this equipment and can administer this treatment. There are also portable electrical stimulation units you can purchase for home use.
Core and muscle strengthening, as well as exercise, are vital to offloading your back. There are many excellent core strengthening resources you can find online. Additionally, you can see a physical therapist specializing in restoring strength, range of motion, and flexibility through prescribed exercises and movement patterns to increase your functionality. Exercise is crucial for back pain management. The American Heart Association weekly recommendations for adults are at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and resistance training sessions or weight lifting.
Mental health professionals can equip you with tools to manage stress, anxiety, and depression, which can influence how you experience the injury and pain. Psychologists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, and psychiatrists are experts in this realm.
Lifestyle factors, such as weight management, stress management, sleep amount, and sleep quality, can impact your pain levels. Exercise and diet management can help you achieve a healthy weight. Stress management influences how well your body can heal itself and may affect your mental health status, impacting your healing and pain perception. Partaking in regular guided meditations can assist with stress reduction; many apps that offer these are freely available to you. Adequate sleep is also necessary for providing your body with appropriate rest to heal and regenerate.
We hope that some of these tips provide a starting point for how to literally “take a load off” your back. If you are wondering where to start with your back pain management, you can call our Neurosurgery and Spine team at 307-237-3077 to schedule an appointment, no referrals or imaging are needed to schedule.