There are a few important questions to ask yourself when treating back pain.
- Is the pain recurring or chronic?
- Is the pain temporary?
- Is it due to an accident?
- Could it be a strain due to overuse?
Sometimes one treatment is good for temporary pain, but entirely wrong for chronic issues. That is why it is crucial to ask yourself these questions.
If you’ve just injured your back from exercise or a small injury, a home remedy may be your best option. The accepted best practice for treating muscle strains (backs included) at home is the RICE formula. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
The RICE Formula
First and foremost, protect your injury. If you’ve just injured your back, don’t keep doing what you’re doing; that last load of whatever it is you’re lifting can wait. Avoid lifting and carrying heavy things, as well as doing any activities with jarring motions. Continuing regular physical activities could make your back pain worse. While your back is healing, don’t do anything that could possibly re-injure it. If an activity you are doing hurts, stop. I know this can be difficult when you are busy and used to being active, but if you give yourself time to heal, you’ll feel better and be able to accomplish more in the long run.
New injuries should be iced. Ice relieves inflammation and can soothe pain. It’s generally a good idea to ice your back for approximately 20 minutes at a time. New injuries shouldn’t be heated. Heating can relax muscles but makes inflammation worse. After several days, heat can usually be substituted for ice.
Compression is the next step in the RICE practice, and can be a little more difficult when it is your back that has been hurt. If possible, wrap your back with elastic bandages or be sure to use some form of support.
Elevation can also be a little tricky with muscle pain in our backs. Instead, try to relax and lay in a position that eases the pain.
After inflammation has gone down, applying heat can be a good way to relieve tension and relax strained muscles. You may want to continue with ice as well. You can do this by alternating heat and cold every 20-30 minutes.
Pain medication can also be a good option for temporarily relieving back pain. If you are experiencing inflammation, pain relievers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help decrease inflammation while relieving pain. To decrease inflammation, it is best to take Ibuprofen or Tylenol every six hours around the clock until the inflammation goes down. With any medication, be sure to follow the appropriate dosage guidelines.
When you are using medication it might be tempting to think that because the pain has lessened, you are better. But, your back may still need time to heal, making it more susceptible to re-injury. Take care and if you have any questions about what medications you should take or activities you should do, talk with your physician.
Both in your recovery process as well as in daily life in general, it is smart to incorporate stretches or exercises that can strengthen your back. Backcare Yoga, stretching, swimming, and weights can all strengthen your back and lessen the possibility for injury in the future.
However, it is critical that you learn the proper techniques and movements of these workouts to ensure you strengthen your back, not reinjure it. When starting any new exercise regimen, it is best to speak with an instructor or trainer so you can learn how to build strength and be safe.
In addition to exercising, avoid situations that could cause back injuries now or in the future. Avoid bending and twisting movements or wearing heavy backpacks for long periods. Be sure to always lift with your knees and body, never your back. Maintain good posture and find chairs and mattresses that provide good support. These simple tips can go a long way in keeping your back healthy and pain-free.
Not All Injuries Are Minor
Of course, all this information is for minor strains and sprains. Serious injury requires serious treatment. You should see a doctor immediately after severe back injuries. Medical professionals have the ability to treat and diagnose problems and can help you prevent further injury with braces and wraps.
You should see a doctor if your back pain is constant, pulsating, spreads, or causes weakness and numbness.
There are times when accidents and serious injuries just aren’t our fault. If you’ve been injured and you think someone else may be at fault, or if you can no longer work and need help with navigating Social Security, please call us at 801-890-1030. We consider it our responsibility to inform people of their options, and help them understand the law.