Back pain is a common problem. It is estimated that 84% of adults would experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is usually an acute condition that resolves itself within 12 weeks. However, there are also people who suffer from chronic back pain lasting longer than 12 weeks. Chronic back pain can start as an innocent, dull ache which progresses to severe, debilitating pain that impairs a person’s quality of life.
Back pain is often caused by a torn muscle or ligament. This can happen as a result of lifting a heavy object, sports injury or poor posture. Most cases of chronic back pain follow a disc problem (slipped disc, degenerative disc disease), an irritated nerve root or joint problems (osteoarthritis, fractures, scoliosis). Other factors such as mental health issues, pain perception, gender and employment status have been identified to increase a person’s risk of suffering from chronic back pain.
Depending on the severity of the condition, there are many treatment options for back pain. Many people find that a combination of treatments work best as they usually complement each other.
These basic remedies can be applied at home during early stages of pain.
Heat relaxes tense muscles and improve blood circulation which then supply the muscles with oxygen and nutrients required for healing. On the other hand, cold reduces swelling due to inflammation.
Over-the-counter medications available in pharmacies like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to reduce inflammation and manage pain. Topical anti-inflammatory creams are also extremely effective in this situation.
If back pain is exacerbated by certain activities such as household chores, a brief period of rest for a day or two may help. It is advised that activity is to be resumed as soon as possible. Resting for long periods of time can cause the muscles to weaken, subsequently leading to more pain.
In conjunction with conventional medical management of pain, there are different time-tested therapies available. These therapies usually focus on treating the root cause of the problem instead of merely managing the pain.
An experienced therapist uses rhythmic strokes and pressure to release tension and ‘knots’ in the muscles. Massage improves blood circulation throughout the body, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to the muscles while removing acid and toxic waste accumulated there.
This ancient Chinese technique of inserting needles in specific areas called meridian points to correct the flow of internal energy (qi) in the body. Once the internal energy flow is corrected, the body has the ability to heal itself. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation, decrease recovery time and relieve pain.
Hands-on treatment with a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath to make physical adjustments to the spine, joints or tissue inthe affected areas can improve mobility and release muscle tension.
The only long-term solution for back pain is regular exercise suited for an individual. When done in a progressive manner, physical therapy strengthens the muscles supporting the spine and increases endorphin levels in the body. Exercising regularly promotes heightened body awareness which leads to a lower risk of future injury.
Develop a yoga practice to restore the spine’s natural curvature, build core strength and flexibility. Yoga emphasises balance and proper alignment of the body. For people suffering from chronic pain, restorative yoga with an experienced yoga teacher can do wonders in helping one understand and deal with the pain.
During a Pilates session, the highlight is on correct posture as well as awareness of the head, neck, spine and pelvis position. Pilates is an integrated mind-body exercise. The simple exercises have to be done with absolute concentration and focus to achieve optimal results. It helps a person unlearn bad movement habit which cause stress to the spine.
Tai Chi is often called ‘moving meditation’ by its many practitioners all over the world. The graceful and fluid low-impact movements are carried out with mental awareness. This aspect of Tai Chi is particularly effective in dissipating stress and anxiety, which reduces pain associated with psychological and emotional factors. With regular practice, a practitioner is able to achieve a state of ‘inner stillness’.
During Tai Chi practice, practitioners are encouraged to maintain steady, rhythmic belly breathing. Deep breathing in this manner oxygenates the brain and relaxes the entire body. Balance is very important in Tai Chi as many movements require the transfer of body weight from one leg to another while extending or retracting the limbs.
The spine is used as the pivot point while the internal energy (qi) to initiate every move is generated from the waist. Core muscles get strengthened as a result. This correlates to evidence showing Tai Chi practice significantly reduces the number of falls in the elderly.
Depending on the severity of the condition, medical treatment ranging from steroid injections , pain medication to surgery can be the solution to back pain. It is best to discuss the possible options with your doctor.
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