At some point in our lives, most of us will experience back pain.
Whether you’ve got an acute, chronic or referred pain condition, chances are that you will feel debilitated or overwhelmed by the unpleasant sensations. Your life might even be affected to a point where you can’t participate in day-to-day activities.
As Bad Backs guest blogger and physiotherapist Matt Baker explains, “Pain is a complex symptom that can affect us both physically and mentally. Your response is as individual as you are.”
He recommends cold or heat therapy as an effective way of getting pain relief. For acute injuries, cold therapy (in the form of crushed ice, a bag of frozen peas or gel ice pack) can be used to help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling around the damaged area.
Meanwhile, heat therapy (via hot packs or infrared heat) can be applied to chronic, longer-term injuries to relax muscles, reduce pain and ease mobility. “Heat therapy causes dilation of the blood vessels, which improves circulation, bringing fresh blood to the injured area, helping the body to receive the ‘fuel’ and ‘building blocks’ required for tissue repair and remove unwanted waste or dead tissue,” explains Matt.
Back pain is an incredibly complex condition. So while cold and heat therapy are fantastic pain management tools, we all know that one of the best ways to treat back problems is to prevent it from happening in the first place!
Recently we posted an article about posture management for bad backs. We discussed the mechanics of maintaining an optimal posture in daily life, from work to driving, housework, gardening and even relaxing at home. We also talked about knowing when to help yourself and when to seek the support of qualified professionals.
We’ve had a fantastic response to that article, so we thought we’d delve a bit further into preventive measures for back pain.
Guide to a healthy back
Here’s a simple, yet comprehensive check list to follow for a healthy and happy back:
- Develop body awareness and don’t push through the pain barrier beyond what is healthy for your back. Educate yourself about body mechanics.
- Practice good posture, otherwise known as the ‘plumb line’ or neutral pelvic position.
- Sit ergonomically in your work or home office with good lumbar support, a proper chair and your computer adjusted at the right height.
- If you have to sit for long periods of time or work in heavy manual labour, take regular breaks to move and stretch.
- Be careful when lifting, stretching or moving objects. Use your legs and never your back to pick things up.
- Stretch your neck, hamstrings and other parts of your body before playing sports or doing any vigorous exercise.
- Develop strong core (abdominal and back) muscles to support your back.
- Try yoga, tai chi or Pilates to build your back, get better posture, and improve balance and flexibility.
- Regularly visit a qualified professional to maintain a healthy back before any problems arise.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by avoiding smoking and keeping a healthy weight. Being overweight unnecessarily strains your back muscles.
- Exercise regularly. Swimming and walking are low-impact but highly effective activities.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of nutrients (such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D) to build strong bones and prevent back pain.
- Manage your stress with relaxation techniques.
- Sleep on a firm mattress to protect your back and enjoy a good night’s rest.