7 Common Causes of Back Pain and Easy Solutions
Treatments for Acute and Chronic Back PainSoothe Your Spine
When pain strikes, follow these rules for fast relief.
Get out of bed. If you must lie down, do so for a few hours and for no more than a couple of days. Light activity is best.
Pop an OTC pill. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce inflammation better than acetaminophen. Don't wait for pain to flare up; take as directed on the label.
Alternate hot and cold. Apply a cold compress right after an injury to numb pain sensors and reduce swelling. Switch to heat after 48 hours to stimulate blood flow to the area and soothe aches.
Stay balanced. Bend at the knees to pick up (lightweight!) items; carry them close to your body to minimize pressure on your back. Don't sit down or stand up too quickly.Pain, Pain Go Away
Acute back pain comes on suddenly but improves over time; chronic pain worsens and can last months. If you don't feel better after three to four days, see your primary care physician. She may refer you to a neurologist or a neurosurgeon if the pain is nerve related; an orthopedist, osteopath, or chiropractor for musculoskeletal problems; a rheumatologist for joint problems; or a physical therapist or physiatrist for rehabilitation exercises. Back specialists typically recommend one or more of the following strategies:
Treatment: Chiropractic care restores mobility by manipulating joints and the spine; it often incorporates massage.
Best for: Acute back pain; not for those with nerve impairment or herniated disks
Find a pro: The American Chiropractic Association (acatoday.org) and your state's Board of Chiropractic Examiners (nbce.org, where you can search for your state)
Treatment: Therapeutic, Swedish, or sports massage uses pressure to stretch and stimulate blood circulation to muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Best for: Chronic low-back pain
Find a pro: National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (ncbtmb.org)
Treatment: Acupuncture may block pain signals and/or release endorphins.
Best for: Chronic low-back pain
Find a pro: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (nccaom.org)
Treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches mind-body techniques to help manage chronic pain.
Best for: Chronic back pain
Find a pro: Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (abct.org)
Treatment: Muscle relaxants provide short-term pain relief from severe muscle spasms.
Best for: Acute low-back pain
Find a pro: Your primary care physician or a specialist can prescribe these drugs.
Treatment: Exercise, such as yoga, stretching, or strength training, improves mobility.
Best for: Acute and chronic low-back pain
Find a pro: American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (aapmr.org), American Physical Therapy Association (apta.org) or Association of Academic Physiatrists (physiatry.org).
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July/August 2012.
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