Back pain is a very common human bane. It often comes on unexpectedly and can be the result of an accident, sudden movement, or long-term stress on the spine. Once you have a back problem, there are ways that you can try to reduce repeat injuries and allow yourself to move freely again.
Back pain is especially intrusive and debilitating because of the central role the spine plays in our lives. Although we all get occasional back pains from sitting too long, for instance, acute or prolonged back pain could be a signal that there's a problem. A visit to the doctor is in order to rule out any serious difficulties.
The spine is a very complex structure, so the reasons for pain are many and varied. One major cause is degeneration of the discs. Through the wear and tear of life, the discs act as the body's shock absorber. After a while, these can compress and trigger pain. Even though the problem might seem to have started suddenly, chances are that the condition was building up, and a sudden movement may have been the final straw.
Not long ago, many doctors recommended bed rest for sore backs, but that way of thinking has changed. Bed rest may still be recommended, but only for the first 24 to 48 hours of pain – then it's time to get moving again. For an acute strain, short-term bed rest, over-the-counter pain relievers (such acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or ASA), and heat packs are often enough to get you over the hump. Moving about may not be comfortable, but it's often the best way to heal your back if your doctor advises you to do this. Your doctor might also recommend a muscle relaxant, a medication usually used for short-term relief unless your doctor specified otherwise.
Chiropractors and physiotherapists also play a role in back health. Chiropractors use carefully applied techniques (also known as "adjustment") to physically manipulate the joints of the spine, which can help relieve back pain. Physiotherapists can teach you how to move so you can avoid pain. Both health professionals can also show you how to prevent future back injuries.
Severe back injuries may need surgery but, as with bed rest, doctors are trying to limit the number of operations being done. It seems that time is really the healer in most back injuries, and now doctors are waiting months before deciding whether or not an operation really is the best solution.
The best way to beat back pain is through prevention. Some of the following suggestions might help avoid a back injury:
- Maintain your ideal body weight – more weight increases the stress on the spine.
- Exercise to increase the strength of your abdominal and lower back muscles, which help support the spine.
- Learn to lift objects safely – lift with the legs, don't bend your back.
- Practice good posture, both standing and sitting.
- Wear good, supportive shoes.
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