Back health

June 20, 2009

Physical therapy for back pain

Back pain can put a damper on every part of your life — both work and fun. Back pain can cause you to miss work — from a few days to several weeks.

Back pain triggers

Many Americans suffer from back pain — and in most cases it can be prevented. Here are the most common causes of back pain and their solutions.

Trigger: Stress can cause back and neck pain — so removing the stress is the best answer.
Solution: To remove stress, try prolonged breathing, a brisk walk, and stretching as often as possible. You can also try giving yourself a neck rub, relaxation techniques, or meditation.

Trigger: Poor posture is also to blame for back pain. Slouching puts strain and tension on the supporting muscles and ligaments of your lower back.
Solution:Try sitting with your lower back supported by the back of your chair or with a lumbar cushion. Make sure your ears, shoulders, and hips are aligned.

Trigger: Improper lifting, pulling, or trying to lift or pull heavy objects alone can also lead to recurring twinges of pain in the lower back.
Solution: If it's necessary to lift or pull a heavy object, find someone to help you or use a cart or dolly to push the object. When lifting heavy objects, keep your back and neck in alignment and let your legs and abdominal muscles do the work.

Preventing back pain

Scheduling daily aerobic exercise, stretching, and relaxing can play a part in preventing back pain. Try to wear flat or low-heeled shoes and shift positions to eliminate strain. Shed any extra pounds to eliminate added strain on your back. Do exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles. Remember your body is supported by both the back and the abdominal muscles.

Treating back pain

Stress, sleep, and strain all contribute to back pain. Learn the triggers and solutions to everyday back problems.

In most cases, low back pain resolves itself within two weeks. But you may need your doctor's help to get your back on track including different types of therapy or treatments. Always check with your doctor for appropriate at-home remedies - different types of pain require different treatment, such as hot or cold, lying down, or stretching.

At-home treatments
  • Cold and hot compresses — Depending on your pain, use ice at first and switch to a heating pad after two or three days
  • Warm bath — If you have tension, heat helps relax muscles
  • Sleep on one side — Some pain can be alleviated by putting a pillow between your legs
  • Exercise — When you swim, walk, or do yoga, you're stretching your muscles gently
  • Over-the-counter medication — Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can relieve pain and reduce swelling
  • Topical creams —Ask your doctor for recommendations on which ones can help relieve your specific pain

Physical therapy
Physical therapists use treatments like massage and exercise to reduce pain. They may use applications of heat or cold. A physical therapist can help you develop new habits that reduce future strain.

Spinal manipulation
Chiropractors don't prescribe drugs or do surgery. Instead, they use leverage and a series of exercises to adjust the spine and restore proper function to your back.

Acupuncture
Acupuncturists insert needles the width of a human hair along precise points throughout the body to trigger the release of naturally occurring pain-killing molecules that keep the body's normal flow of energy unblocked. Studies are under way to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture in comparison to more conventional procedures in the treatment of back pain.

Medication
If over-the-counter pain medicine doesn't work, your doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant. For serious pain, some doctors recommend corticosteroid injections.

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