There is nothing worse than suffering from a painful back, struggling to get out of bed, up off your chair, large amounts of pain just to get socks and shoes on. The first thing you should know is that it is not the end of the world.
Your back is like any other part of your body and has the ability to heal itself. Back pain has a stigma attached to it due to years and years of unwarranted comments by health ‘professionals’ such as “one sneeze and you could be in a wheelchair” (how is someone supposed to hold a sneeze in?), “don’t pick up your kids ever again” or “even with physio your back will never be the same”.
“Back pain affects up to 85% of the population at some point in their lives. The vast majority (90%) improve over a three month period, but nearly 50% will have at least one recurrent episode.”
What to do when you experience back pain?
Try to remain as active as possible within your limits. Your body is designed for movement, and the more you rest and stay still the stiffer your back will become, meaning it may take longer to get better. Don’t overdo it and try and push through the pain and go for a jog, but if a gentle walk only causes slight discomfort and eases some of the pain, this may be a good idea. Your body is a beautifully designed structure and will tell you how far to push – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
Find a position of comfort
Everyone will have a different position of comfort depending on his or her back injury. Your body will tell you where it wants to be.
Here are a bunch of commonly adopted positions that have helped patients in the past:
- Lay on your back with pillows or a rolled up blanket underneath your knees
- Lay on your side with a pillow wedged underneath your stomach and a pillow in between your knees
- Sitting on couch/chair – place a pillow or folded up towel behind your back
- Difficulty passing or controlling urine
- Numbness around your back passage or genitals
- Unsteadiness on your feet
- Numbness, pins and needles or weakness in both legs
1) Brukner, P. and Kahn K.,2007, Clinical Sports Medicine, McGraw Hill, Australia
No matter how comfortable a position try not to stay in the same position for too long. Every half hour get up, go for a gentle walk around the house and try and adopt another position if you can.
In the first 48 – 72 hours the brain will send natural inflammatory properties to the area of injury. These neurochemicals can irritate sensitive nerve endings and cause a whole lot of pain. If it’s too much to bear try taking over the counter pain relief. Be sure to check with your GP that it safe to take. Try to limit your use of painkillers, maybe using it when you really need it such as an hour before bed, so at least you can fall asleep.
Hot and Cold Packs
Different people respond to different treatments. Sometimes heat can relax the area and provide temporary relief, using heat packs, hot shower or bath. Other patients enjoy the numbing effect cold packs create. While others enjoy 5 – 10 minutes of a cold pack followed by 5 – 10 minutes of heat. Trial each method and see what your body responds to.
See a Physio
A Physio will determine the extent of your injury. There is no need to have an X-Ray or CT scan straight away. If your physio believes it is a little more serious or you want peace of mind, then this may be helpful. Gentle massage, heat, gentle mobilisations of a locked joint, acupuncture and some gentle stretches can provide back pain relief and increased movement immediately. You may need to see your physio once or twice more and be back to full movement free of pain. A physio should also determine what caused your injury and training your muscles to prevent further injury occurring down the track.
Please book an appointment as soon as possible. The earlier we can see you the quicker we can get you back to 100%. When I suffered back pain, for the first three days I kept telling myself “She’ll be right” when actually she wasn’t. I saw my therapist eventually and the problem was solved. Why did I waste those first three days of suffering in pain?
WARNING – Severe Symptoms:
If you suffer from back pain and suddenly develop the following symptoms, please see a doctor straight away: