There are days when I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “Wow, my back hurts…again,” I know I’m not alone because about one in five Americans reports having experienced back pain at least once during the previous month. Unfortunately it is a common occurrence for many of us but, should we go to the doctor to manage this pain? Not necessarily. Most back pain issues resolve on their own within about four to six weeks; this being with or without medical treatment. Four to six weeks may sound like a long time to deal with pain but there is good news; in many cases, if you’re careful, you can manage your back pain at home.
First and foremost, let’s go back to basics. We know that, if we’re careful, we can manage our pain at home, right? So now, how do we define the word ‘manage’ in this situation? To manage means to handle, to control, to take charge of, and to take care of. We will take control of our back pain by taking care of it.There is an immense variety of noninvasive pain management techniques available to treat our pain. Exercise and staying physically fit is a big one. We have to aim to increase our strength and our flexibility to restore our normal range of motion. As much as your back may hurt, and trust me I can relate, try methods like water therapy, stretching or yoga postures, and low impact aerobic routines. The National Center for Health Statistics has found that in 2009 a quarter of all Americans get virtually no exercise at all. “Life is motion. Without exercise our bodies cannot function as they were designed to. We are prone to… obesity and back pain. Often times patients are unable to exercise because of health conditions such as back pain, but ironically, exercise may be just what they need,” states Dr. Eben Davis in an article he wrote for Wellsphere. Staying fit and active is necessary for proper cardiovascular health; it will keep our muscles, bones, and joints happy and nourished. Another option for in-home treatment is manual techniques, just a fancy name for a great massage. The manipulation of your affected areas through force to the joints, muscles, and ligaments can relieve the pain noticeably.
“Weekly massages give more effective short-term relief to chronic back sufferers than standard medical therapies alone,” say Dr. Edward Swartzberg and Dr. William A. Pereira in their book How to Manage Back Pain: Self-Care, Prevention, and Treatment Options. The hot-cold routine is highly recommended as a pain management method as well. Use cold packs to relieve any swelling that might have occurred and hot packs to get parts moving again. The most important thing about this method is that you feel comfortable. Use cold when you feel you need to, use heat when and as long as you want to.If the pain does not subside with the options mentioned above, you can always turn to noninvasive pharmacologic pain management; an easy way to say it, pain relievers and related over the counter drugs. Among these options you will find analgesics, aspirin, ibuprofen, and muscle relaxant.Now, there are situations where you cannot manage your back pain on your own. If you have horrible discomfort accompanied by severe symptoms, you need to see a specialized doctor. These symptoms could be any of the following: a cause by injury, so severe you cannot move around or sleep comfortably, numbness in your legs, or accompanied by fever or nausea.
Apart from the most common medications your doctor could prescribe, there are also invasive techniques, performed by specialists that could treat your back pain. These pain management techniques involve injections and/or placement of devices into your body. Some of the most popular interventional pain management techniques include: injections or blocks, radiofrequency, and surgically implanted devices.I know injections may sound scary and a bit severe but there is logic to these doctors’ madness. Injections provide direct delivery of steroids or anesthetic into joints, ligaments, or muscles. Now if you think about it, and dare to imagine it, it sounds pretty precise right? These injections cannot only provide relief of pain but also confirm if the injected structure is the source of your pain, clarifying the diagnosis. Radio frequency involves administered heat through a small needle.
What this does is deaden the painful nerves providing you with rapid relief. This technique helps approximately 60% of patients and the relief may last months to years depending on the severity of each patients pain.Last but not least we find ourselves analyzing the frightening word…surgery. Surgeons can implant electrotherapy devices; these are spinal cord and/or peripheral nerve stimulators. What these do is target the pain at its source, stimulating the area for localized pain relief. Thankfully surgery is the least commonly used technique, giving it inconclusive findings on its effectiveness. We all know how terrible back pain can be. The best technique, I would say, is to take care of ourselves above all things. There are moments when we cannot control what our body chooses to do, like surprise us with a bit of a back attack. Use common sense when managing your pain, you are the only one who knows exactly what you are feeling and the only one who knows exactly how much you can take. Try or begin with the in-home techniques to evaluate how severe your problem is. If you feel like it’s getting out of your hands be smart and turn to a specialized doctor for help. Do not try to brush the pain off, take care of yourself…actually let someone take care of you for once!