Hot And Cold Treatments
Many people have found that hot and cold treatments help relieve back pain. You might try both to find out which works better for you. Heat relaxes muscles and soothes painful areas. There are many ways to apply heat. Some people like hot showers or baths, while others prefer using heat lamps, heating pads or warm compresses. If you have arthritis, heating your muscles first might make it easier for you to do back exercises. Be sure not to fall asleep while using heat. Cold has a numbing effect. This often helps relieve pain. You might try one of these methods for applying cold:
- a large ice cube used to massage the area
- a frozen package of vegetables
- a commercially made cold pack.
- Be sure not to leave ice on after the skin becomes numb. This could lead to localized frostbite. Do not use cold if you are especially sensitive to it or
- have decreased circulation or sensation. Read the pain management article for more information about heat and cold.
Stretch And Strengthen Those Low Back Muscles
Your core, which includes your abdominal muscles and even your hips, helps provide strength and stability to your spine. Spend time on exercises that strengthen and stretch your ab muscles, like yoga or tai chi. If yoga or tai chi is out of your comfort zone, try a few gentle stretches throughout the day to help loosen and strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
A rolled-up towel can also help relieve tension in your back. Lay down on the floor and place the towel under your pelvis. Relax your hips over your towel. This simple movement can help loosen tight muscles in your lower back.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
Get medical help right away or call your local emergency number if you:
- Are currently being treated for cancer
- Are unable to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
- Are vomiting blood or have blood in your stool
- Have chest, neck, or shoulder pain
- Have sudden, sharp abdominal pain
- Have pain in, or between, your shoulder blades with nausea
- Have tenderness in your belly, or your belly is rigid and hard to the touch
- Are pregnant or could be pregnant
- Had a recent injury to your abdomen
- Have difficulty breathing
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Heres What The Study Couldnt Tell Us
The study was missing a few potentially helpful low-risk medicines. Topicals such as the lidocaine patch or capsaicin ointment were not included, which is a shame, as these can provide relief for some people, and carry little risk. I would also be interested to know if over-the-counter topical therapies containing menthol and camphor are better than placebo for low back pain. Suggestions for the future research, and the next update!
I plan to write about chronic low back pain in a future post, because there was a guideline update for that specific issue as well.
Techniques For Good Posture:
- Sit in a firm chair with armrests to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders.
- Keep your upper back straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back. You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks. Some people are more comfortable sitting with the back of the chair at a 15- to 20-degree angle. A small cushion behind the lower back to maintain the natural curve of the back also can be quite helpful.
- Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
- Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or other surface.
- Don’t sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.
- Stand with weight equal on both feet.
- Avoid locking your knees.
- Ease tension in your back by placing one foot on a footstool.
- If you stand for long periods of time, wear flat or low-heeled shoes.
- Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.
Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- If more comfortable, place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.
- If you sleep on your back, ask your doctor or physical therapist if placing pillows under your knees would help your lower back pain or make it worse.
- Use a firm mattress.
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What Drink Helps Back Pain
Cherry juice can help relieve muscle pain, which may be chronic or exercise-induced. Cherry juice is easily available to buy at grocery stores and commonly contains the tart cherry extract. Try drinking a glass of cherry juice on a daily basis and see if it has positive effects in relieving your back pain.
If You Have Low Back Pain Try These Steps First
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
Low back pain, the scourge of mankind: it is the second leading cause of disability here in the United States, and the fourth worldwide. Its also one of the top five medical problems for which people see doctors. Almost every day that I see patients, I see someone with back pain. Its one of the top reasons for lost wages due to missed work, as well as for healthcare dollars spent, hence, a very expensive problem.
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When You Should See A Doctor For Back Pain
There are 2 major red flags that should send you to a medical professional. The first is if an accident caused your back pain. Any back pain thats a result of trauma like a fall or car accident should get checked immediately, says Kevin Baidoo, MD. Hes a physiatrist at Northwestern Regional Medical Group in Winfield, Illinois.
The second is if your back pain is severe or comes with other complications, says Mara Vucich, DO. Shes a physiatrist at the Maryland Spine Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore who treats individuals with a variety of spine conditions. If youre having severe back pain, numbness and tingling, weakness, or bladder and bowel incontinence, call the doctor right away, she says. This could indicate a problem in the spine that needs urgent attention.
That said, a lot of back pain gets better on its own over days and weeks, says Dr. Vucich. If you dont have any of these severe symptoms and your back pain sprung up after a day of shoveling or a pickup softball game instead of a fall, a do-it-yourself remedy may be for you.
Your body has a natural healing process, Dr. Vucich says. And there are many things you can do to help ease the pain.
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The Tricky One: Cancer As A Cause Of Low Back Pain And The Necessity Of Testing Just In Case When The Symptoms Justify It
Sorry I have to use the C word I know its kind of a bummer. But C happens.
A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient just in case. And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! This is an unsolveable problem.
Most cancers and ominous problems will inevitably start to cause other, distinctive, ominous symptoms, and it wont be long before someone catches on that theres more going on than just back pain. So it truly is an extraordinary circumstance for back pain to be ominous without causing other symptoms that raise the alarm.
For example, in 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a creepy case of slowly growing neurological deficit caused by a very stealthy cancer, which took a lot of diagnostic effort to solve.25shudder So sneaky cancers happen but they are crazy rare.
This is an unholy combination of factors: the exact same symptoms can have either an extremely rare but serious cause, or an extremely common but harmless cause that can be greatly aggravated by excessive alarm!
My favourite epitaph: I told you I was sick!
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Lower Back Pain: What Could It Be
Do you have lower back pain? You are not alone. Anyone can experience lower back pain at any time, even if you dont have a prior injury or any of the risk factors. It is not always serious and can often get better on its own. But in some cases pain is your bodys way of telling you that something isnt right.
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What Is Back Pain
Pain in your back can be an annoying ache, or it can get so bad that its unbearable. Back pain is the second most common reason why people visit their healthcare providers . Many people miss work because of it. Around 80% to 90% of people in the United States will have back pain at some point in their lives.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
Chronic Low Back Pain Is Serious But Rarely Ominous
Back pain can suck the joy out of your days for week, months, even years. It can definitely be serious even when its not dangerous. I have worked with many truly miserable chronic low back pain patients, and of course the huge economic costs of back pain are cited practically anywhere the subject comes up. But your typical case of chronic low back pain, as nasty as it can be, has never killed anyone.
Ominous is medical jargon for truly scary. Cue Jaws theme music. Low back pain is ominous when it is caused by something that can cripple or kill you. Such causes are rare, fortunately. But awful things do happen, even the best doctors can miss them .
Ordinary back pain can be fierce & awful but not dangerous. Its bark is almost always much louder than its bite.
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Diagnosis Of Back Pain
Regardless of what type of doctor you see, there are some things you can expect your doctor to do during your visit. Your doctor first will ask you a number of questions, the most common of which are listed as follows:
- What are your symptoms–that is, what aches or pains do you have?
- Exactly where is the pain?
- Where is the pain the most severe?
- When did the pain begin?
- How long have you had it?
- Did something specific cause your back pain, such as an accident or injury?
- What home treatments have you used?
- Were you under any additional stress when the pain began?
- Do you have any other health problems?
- What kind of work do you do?
- In what types of recreational activities do you participate?
Think about these ahead of time so you can answer them easily. You also may have questions you’d like to ask the doctor. As you think of questions at home, jot them down and take them to the appointment.
Next, your doctor will give you a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor may perform any of the following: observe your muscles and joints ask you to sit and lie down ask you to move your back in different positions observe and feel the area of most pain and/or check to see if other areas of your body are tender or painful If the doctor can identify the likely cause of your back pain at this point, no further tests will be needed.
Diagnosing Lower Back Injuries
When a patient comes to The Mayfair Clinic their treatment always starts with a diagnosis at their first consultation. This consultation delves deep into the patients life and their medical history. This is to find out about the patients activity level, what they do for work, if they have ever suffered from a back condition before and anything else that may help us identify the cause of their back pain. A lot of people dont quite realise the challenges they face in recovering from lower back pain if they are very inactive and have poor muscle tone.
Once we know more about the patient, we begin a physical exam of their back and any other places that they feel symptoms. At The Mayfair Clinic, we ask our patients to go into as much detail about their symptoms as possible. This helps us to map out areas of concern and then examine them when we perform the physical exam.
The physical exam for back pain may involve a lot of special tests and asking the patient to move their arms and legs. This is to help us see which movements cause pain and the special tests are to discover which internal spinal structures have been injured, such as the disc or facet joints. Once we have a rough area of a patients back mapped out, we can start to formulate a treatment and rehabilitation strategy.
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What Is Upper Back Pain
Many people experience pain between their neck and shoulder blades. This is called upper back pain. Upper back pain can be constant or occur only when doing activities. Sometimes upper back pain can be so severe that it interferes with normal life. A doctor can help diagnose and help determine what to do to relieve upper back pain.
Upper back pain is the discomfort experienced between the neck and shoulder blades. If you have upper back pain, you may have symptoms that come on gradually or all at once. This could include:
- Sharp, stabbing sensation
Upper back pain may be caused by several different things like:
- Injury, overuse, or muscle strain
Questions To Ask The Doctor About Medications:
- What will the medication do?
- How long will it take before I notice results?
- What is the name of the medication? Is there a generic brand?
- Are there side effects I should know about?
- How should I take the medication ?
- How often should I take the medication?
- What should I do if I forget to take a dose at the specified time?
- Let your doctor know if you are taking other medications. Sometimes certain medications cannot be taken together.
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What Is A Back Brace
A back brace is a device a person may wear to support their back. Some people believe they may reduce back pain, prevent injuries, promote recovery, and encourage correct posture and proper spine alignment.
A back brace usually features elastic compression bands and rigid plastic or metals, or a combination of both. They come as either custom-fitted or prefabricated designs. Prefabricated or off-the-shelf types are readily available and do not require fitting and molding.
Dont Rest An Achy Back
Doctors used to prescribe bed rest for back pain. But now we know that lying still is one of the worst things you can do. It can make back pain worse and lead to other complications. Dont rest for more than a day or two. Its important to get up and slowly start moving again. Exercise has been found to be one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain quickly. Try swimming, walking, or yoga.
Ways To Avoid Back Pain
If youâve been sidelined by a sore back, youâre not alone. Four out of five people experience back pain at some point, making it the second most common reason for visiting the doctor.
Back pain takes various forms, from a persistent dull ache to sudden sharp pain, and has many causes. Sometimes it results from a sprain, fracture, or other accidental injury. It can stem from a disease or medical condition, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or spinal stenosis . Many people develop back pain in part because theyâre overweight or sedentary.
The good news is that most lower back pain usually gets better within a few days or weeks, and surgery is rarely necessary. Whatâs more, simple self-help strategies such as these can be surprisingly effective at preventing back pain and keeping it from returning:
1. Get more exercise. If your back is hurting, you may think the best way to get relief is to limit exercise and to rest. A day or two of rest may help, but more than that may not help the pain. Experts now know that regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension.
3. If you smoke, stop. Smoking restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs, so smokers are especially vulnerable to back pain.