First response when in pain
Many of us will occasionally experience back pain. It is therefore useful to know what to do when back pain occurs and when to seek medical help.
With a correct first response to back pain, you can reduce the impact that back pain has on your life and promote a swift return to your normal activities. Most people with back pain find that their pain disappears within days or weeks. The appropriate action can:
• increase your rate of recovery
• help you in continuing your daily activities when in pain;
• prevent future onsets of back pain.
The key message when back pain strikes
The most important thing to do when you experience back pain, is to continue your normal activities as much as you can. Although you might be tempted to rest and move as little as you can, this will only make your pain worse and lengthen the period that you are in pain. Extensive research has shown that prolonged bed rest does not result in a quick recovery.
In some cases, the pain might interfere too much with your normal lifestyle. In such cases you could take some simple pain killers (e.g. paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen) to control your pain (if in doubt, consult your GP or pharmacist).
The above recommendations would be most effective if you integrate them in your daily life. That will give you the best chance of controlling back pain and continuing your normal activities.
Here are some more specific aspects when dealing with back pain:
The evidence shows that you are most likely to reduce your discomfort from back pain if you continue your daily activities as normally as you can. In the past, bed rest was often prescribed, but this has now been shown to be counterproductive. The support and reassurance offered from a professional movement specialist trained in the management of lower back pain, enables you to regain the confidence and trust in your body, helping you to return to your normal activities and lifestyle as soon as possible.
In some cases the pain might be too severe to continue your daily activities. In such cases, you can consider taking over-the-counter painkillers. Many recommend you should first try paracetamol, if that doesn’t give you sufficient pain relief, you could try ibuprofen. Also, more effective pain relief can be achieved by taking pain killers regularly instead of waiting until the pain is bad. You should discuss any concerns you have about medication with your GP or pharmacist, especially when you are taking these medications over prolonged periods of time.
A large number of research studies have shown that exercise is a very good method of reducing back pain. Joining a structured and supportive exercise programme like that offered by Back4Good® Practitioners is one of the most effective ways of staying active. Such a structured programme is the best way to move towards a healthier and happier back as well as lifestyle.
HOT AND COLD PACKS
Some people find that applying hot or cold packs to the painful area can give some pain relief. There are special hot or cold packs available in most pharmacies or drug stores, however you can also improvise by, for example, using a bag of frozen peas as a cold pack. It is advisable not to apply the hot or cold packs directly onto the skin, but to wrap the packs in a thin towel or cloth.
Choosing between applying heat or cold is often a matter of trying; some prefer hot packs while others get more pain relief from cold packs. If you think the back pain comes from a muscle sprain or tear, it is probably better to try hot packs first. If you think that the pain originates from an inflammation, it would be better to apply cold packs. Try it out, and you’ll see what works best for you.
PREVENTING RECURRENT BACK PAIN
Many individuals with persistent back pain have flare-ups and periods of no pain. Learning how to manage this effectively is key to maintaining a normal lifestyle. For further information refer to our section on Prevention & Maintenance.
If in doubt you could always consult with your GP or other qualified healthcare provider. You can find more information on when to seek medical help in our section ‘When to seek medical help’.
With thanks to BackCare, the charity for healthier backs.