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Whether we like it or not, back injuries are just another fact of life. Unfortunately, this injury has the potential to inhibit you from doing what you love - including work, exercise, and even daily tasks that used to be considered easy. If you think you’re alone during the worst of your back injury – think again; about 80% of the world’s population faces some sort of back pain in their lifetime. In fact, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world, so understanding what steps you need to take when your back is acting up is crucial.
What to do when that back pain just isn’t letting up:
1. Ice – If you just recently (within the past couple of hours) suffered from a back injury, be sure to ice it to reduce any pain and swelling. Icing right after an injury also has the potential to decrease tissue damage and numb the sore tissues in your back. If you don’t have any frozen gel packs, feel free to use other frozen entities such as frozen peas, or a frozen towel. Don’t forget to put a cloth between your skin to avoid ice burn, and never use the cold therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time.
2. Heat – After icing on and off for a couple of hours, switch up the temperature to heat to reduce blood flow to the affected area, lessening the inflammation and/or swelling. Once some of this swelling has gone down, the heat therapy will be essential in stimulating blood flow to the area, bringing restorative oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. This technique can also be beneficial in reducing the pain that you feel by inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to your brain.
3. Remain Active – Our initial thought when injured is almost always to take it easy for a couple of days until the pain subsides. With back injuries, this isn’t always the best method. Research shows that bed rest and lying down longer than a day or two isn’t helpful for relieving back pain. That may not be what you want to hear but get up and get moving (in moderation of course)! Some great exercises to help get through a back injury include lifting light weights, yoga, walking, and water aerobics.
4. Get Enough Sleep –Now, this may seem counterintuitive considering the last point, but sleep is crucial. When we sleep, our muscles and tissues repair and rejuvenate, with blood flow increasing the deeper in sleep we are – which is different from just resting and letting these back muscles tighten up and lose strength. If you notice that your back pain is typically arising when you wake up and is accompanied by grogginess and achiness, consider pointing the finger at your best friend – your mattress. Understanding which mattresses are the best for back pain could be an easy step towards a better night’s rest and a pain-free back.
5. Stretch – Gently stretching the areas of your back that are tender or painful can improve tissue healing by bringing more blood flow to the injured area. Stretching will also reduce the tension in the muscles that support the spine. When these muscles are not stretched properly or frequently enough, tension in these muscles will most likely worsen your back pain.
6. Find a Professional: If you have gone through all of these practices and a couple of weeks have passed with no back-injury relief, don’t hesitate to call up a licensed health professional to help double-down on your areas of pain. If there are symptoms that cause any concern or the injury refuses to subside, this may signify a more serious medical condition.
It’s no question that an injured or hurting back is no fun. Like any injury, not addressing it promptly and effectively may lead to more issues down the road – not only in terms of bodily pain but with your wallet as well. Americans spend around $50 billion in health care costs to treat back pain each year, and when you include the amount of productivity that was lost due to these hurt workers, the amount spikes to $100 billion. Learning how to properly recover from your back injuries and preventing future damage can help deter you from being part of this statistic.
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