Back pain is something nearly all of us will experience at some point, and it varies in severity from mild discomfort to being so painful it can affect mobility. Back pain is usually described as upper, mid or lower, depending on the site of the pain along, or close to, the spine. Having back pain for a long time can affect quality of life, so it is important to get it treated. The good news is that with the right treatment, most general back pain will begin to feel better after a week or two.
Causes of Back Pain
Back pain can be caused by many things, but with generalized back pain it might not always be obvious. Once you understand the source of your symptoms, then you can take the necessary steps to healing and preventing further back pain in the future.
Injury – Some back pain has an obvious cause, such as an injury. This might be as simple as bending your back awkwardly as you pick up something up from the floor, falling over, sneezing violently, or twisting your back as you stand up. As long as your injury is mild, you will recover with home treatment. However if you have an extreme amount of pain see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure the damage isn’t serious. Similarly, if back pain from an injury doesn’t improve it is worth getting it looked at.
Posture – having a poor posture, such as if you slouch when you sit, stoop or hunch your shoulders as your stand and walk, can put stress and strain on the muscles, joints and ligaments in your back. One way to tell if back pain is linked to poor posture is if you feel pain is worse at certain times of the day. For example, it could be that your back is most sore in the afternoons, after having spent several hours sitting with a poor posture at work.
Stress or Illness – Sometimes when feeling the effects of stress, or are coming down with a bug or illness, it can cause pain and achiness in the back. If due to stress, learn some stress management techniques to help you cope. If you are beginning to get a bug or virus, take over the counter remedies and rest until you feel better. Usually, back pain will subside.
Medical Condition – medical conditions that result in back pain include sciatica, a slipped disc, swelling of the joints or a bone in the spine out of alignment. These conditions cause pain and can affect the nerves resulting in a tingling or numbness, as well as weakness. If you suspect your back pain is caused by a medical condition, seek the advice of your doctor.
Treatment for Back Pain
If you have back pain, it is important to treat it because being in pain can hinder the healing process as it has an effect on the immune system. When the immune system is already working hard, it can leave you vulnerable to other types of illness and infection. Effective pain management can help your immune system concentrate on what it needs to, helping you to feel healthier and stronger. There are a variety of ways you can manage back pain at home, and you might have to find the right combination of treatments that work for you.
Try to Keep Active – it used to be thought that back pain required days of bed rest, but unless you are recovering from an injury, research shows that keeping active can help generalized back problems heal quicker. If in doubt, discuss with your doctor before beginning exercises help heal your back pain.
Stretches – stretching loosens muscles, relaxes the ligaments and helps improve mobility, helping to heal by reducing pain and inflammation. Read more about the different stretches you can do to manage back pain here.
Medication – take painkillers when necessary to help manage back pain. Always read the labels and do not exceed the recommended dose. If it does not help, it is worth seeing a doctor who can check for any underlying causes and recommend a suitable prescription painkiller.
Herbal treatments and Supplements – herbal and supplement therapies for back pain include Calcium and Magnesium that when taken in combination may help prevent muscle spasms and improve mobility.
Medicinal cannabis is also an effective pain reliever and muscle relaxant. New methods of cannabis extraction, such as rosin technology, is finding safer and solvent free ways to use this medicinal herb. For more information, see these tips on rosin technology.
It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking herbal remedies or supplements, as some may interact with other medications.
Heat and Cold – applying either heat or cold to the affected area may help to lessen pain. You can use cool packs from a pharmacy, or an alternative is to wrap a pack of frozen vegetables in a towel and place it on the sore area. Don’t apply for longer than 20 minutes, or directly to skin, as it could result in an ‘ice burn’.
Having heat radiate through the muscles in the back helps to relax them and ease pain. Having a warm bath, or a hot water bottle against sore muscles is a soothing way to ease pain.
Acupuncture – acupuncture is a healing treatment where very fine needles are placed into the skin at very specific points to stimulate nerves. The debate into the effectiveness of this ancient healing is still ongoing, with some users reporting relief from back pain while others do not.
Massage – muscular back pain might benefit from manipulation of the joints and muscles, helping to ease pain. It’s a good idea to see a trained therapist who can recommend a course of treatment.
Aqua Therapy – whirlpool baths provide a massaging effect through concentrated jets of water that can help in treating back pain. Exercising in water is also beneficial, as water allows movement without strain on the muscles and joints.
Preventing Back Pain
Strengthen – To help prevent another episode of back pain in the future, you could try strengthening your back through exercise. Strong back muscles give you the support your back needs through daily tasks, making you less prone to minor injury. Activities such as yoga and Pilates can strengthen your back while being gentle on the joints of the spine, as does walking and swimming.
Improve Posture – Be aware of the natural shape of your spine and try to keep good alignment throughout the day. You can do this by following good posture practices, such as walking tall, sitting with the right back support and lifting using the correct posture. There is some advice on developing the right posture to relieve and avoid back pain here.
Mattress – sometimes the cause of back pain might be something that you have overlooked. Have you noticed that you back pain is worse after waking? If so, the mattress you sleep on might be the cause. Old or worn mattresses have lumps, dips and bumps that may cause back pain and poor quality sleep. It is recommended you change your mattress at least every ten years. It could also be that your mattress is too hard or soft. A bed store will usually be able to offer you advice on a suitable mattress, or there are mattress topper that you can fit to improve comfort.
Sleeping Positions – Another thing you can do to prevent back pain is to try different sleeping positions. You might find that laying on your stomach without using a pillow helps to keep your neck comfortable, or laying on your side with a pillow between your knees helps to keep the spine in a natural position. If you usually lay on your back, a small pillow under your lower back may help the natural curve of your spine.
Healthy Weight – being a healthy weight for your height is important in keeping strain of your back to a minimum. Being overweight putts added pressure on the spine, leaving you susceptible to back pain. If you are overweight, try a combination of healthy eating and gentle exercise. Your doctor will be happy to give you advice on how to start.
Back pain is often a gruelling experience, and each case is different. What might work for some, may not be effective in others, but the benefits of having many different home treatment options is that you can pick and choose what works for you.
Also, by following a few simple rules, most back pain can be prevented. It is worth learning as much as possible about how to prevent back pain, so you can apply the different, effective ideas to your everyday life and be pain free.
If you find that your back pain does not improve after treatment at home, make an appointment to see your doctor or a physiotherapist. Long term pain should never be ignored, so get some advice and begin your recovery.