Combine Several Strategies for Best Results
Back pain can happen suddenly and last a short time, or it can be chronic and never go away. Either way, when you experience it, all you want is relief.
People are finding there are many effective ways to reduce and manage pain, without the harmful side effects that often come with medication. These three strategies work best:
Minimize acute pain (an injury that lasts up to one month)
- Apply cold or heat: Use ice for recent injuries to reduce swelling, and heat for muscle pain or stiffness.
- Keep moving: You’ll recover quicker if you resume normal activity and do gentle stretches; at the very least, walk a few minutes every hour.
- Try pain relievers: Use over-the-counter ibuprofen or naproxen (follow dosage and duration instructions carefully).
- Start slow: Simple exercises (like a cat stretch or knee-to-chest stretch) for 15 minutes a day can bring relief.
- Physical therapy: A therapist can help you strengthen your back and restore range of motion.
- Regular workouts: When pain subsides, maintain an exercise routine to strengthen your back and reduce your risk for re-injury.
Try something completely different
- Spinal manipulation: Chiropractors, osteopaths and massage therapists are trained to move the joints of the spine, to reduce pain and improve function.
- Acupuncture: Many people experience significant relief from this treatment, which involves inserting very thin needles into specific points on the body. (Choose a state-licensed acupuncturist.)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Working with a therapist, you can develop new thought patterns that give you relief from ongoing pain.
- Biofeedback: Electrical sensors can help you learn to control and make subtle changes in your body—such as relaxing certain muscles—to reduce pain.
- Yoga and tai chi: These ancient Eastern traditions are widely practiced in the West for their gentle movements that strengthen the core and improve flexibility. Look for a class at a local fitness center.
- Meditation: This technique of focusing attention is shown to help people manage pain.
Any one of these strategies may help, but when you integrate more than one—for example, work with a physical therapist, learn biofeedback techniques and also take up yoga—you are more likely to achieve a better outcome.
Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you. Your Health Plan covers chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathy and many mental health therapies; please see the Summary Plan Description for details.
Learn more at prevention.com; search “back pain.”