By Gregory Burkard Jr., DO
Around 70 to 80 percent of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. Often times, you can treat back pain at home and let it go away within a few days or weeks. Use these tactics to help fuel the healing process.
1. Adjust your posture.
Slouching or slumping affects your alignment, flexibility, and joint movement.
Sit in a low-back or straight-back chair with a pillow behind your lower back. This maintains the natural curvature of your spine. Keep your knees level with your hips and your thighs parallel to the floor. Your elbows should be close to your body and your wrists in a comfortable, neutral position.
Stand with your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned. Keep your head level and pull in your stomach to keep your back straight. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. Break up standing or sitting with frequent walks and stretches.
Sleep on a firm mattress with a comfortable pillow on your side. Bend your knees slightly and place a pillow between them if necessary.
2. Tinker with the temperature.
Ice or heat can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Use ice as soon as you experience back pain or after exercising. From 48 hours after the onset of pain, try to use heat to relax your muscles. Take a hot shower or bath with Epsom salts. Apply compresses such as a warm washcloth, hot water bottle, or heating pad to the sore area.
3. Reduce stress.
Daily stressors can tense muscles and aggravate agony. Balance worries with hobbies or relax outside with family or a friend. Try daily meditation and practice good sleeping habits. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious all the time, get help from your doctor or a psychologist.
4. Work it out.
After the onset of back pain, it may take a day or two to take a break. However, if you relax too long, the muscles can weaken, which can hinder recovery.
Keep your back muscles strong by walking around for at least a few minutes every hour. Yoga, tai chi and stretching can also bring relief. Ask your family doctor, a spinal specialist, or a physiotherapist about the best exercises for you.
5. Experiment with alternatives.
If the pain does not subside, or if it worsens within two to three weeks, see a doctor. Also, make a doctor’s appointment if other symptoms accompany the back pain, such as unexpected weight loss, fever, chills, night sweats, or weakness in the legs or arms.
Dr. Gregory Burkard Jr. is an interventional pain and sports medicine physiotherapist at Tahoe Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Nevada and the Barton Center for Orthopedics and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, California. To learn more about the orthopedic and physical therapy services available, call 530.539.6600 or visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com.