How to Deal with Back Pain
It’s no surprise, we’ve all been sitting too much during the pandemic. From long days on Zoom calls to slothful weekends on the sofa, Americans have been sitting around a lot more than usual, and it shows. We’ve gained weight, not to mention our backs hurt.
How to deal with back pain that lingers
Back pain becomes a problem when it persists. You may experience a chronically achy feeling in one spot or a twinge. Or perhaps you just have a general sense of “my back hurts” all the time. In some cases, you may feel back spasms, like muscle twitches or the feeling that your back will “go out” on you.
These are serious back pain warning signs and you need to address them.
Here’s how to deal with back pain at home:
- Ice – Ice may not seem like the greatest comfort at first but you’ll be surprised what it can do to bring down any inflammation in an area that’s bothering. It has a calming effect on back pain and spasms. Grab an ice pack from the freezer and wrap it in a kitchen towel and place it against the area that’s hurting the most for 15 or 20 minutes until the coolness subsides.
- Heat – Yes, heat feels great, too! And you can alternate ice and heat to your own comfort level. A heating pad or a heat “sock” that you put in the microwave is useful. Again, 15 or 20 minutes is a good length of time to provide relief. Don’t overdo it—and never sleep with a heating pad under you, no matter how good it feels. There’s danger of overheating and electric shock.
- Stretching – Pull up a gentle stretching guided video on YouTube for back pain. Think: Pilates, for example. Be mindful to look for instructors who are professionals in their fields and have credentials. Doing stretching exercises incorrectly could pull muscles or ligaments in the wrong way and worsen your pain. Back pain often correlates to tightness in the hamstrings (the backs of your legs) so consider doing gentle hamstring stretches in bed before you get out of bed in the morning or before sleeping at night.
- Standing/bending/twisting – Set 20- to 30-minute timers throughout your day to get up and walk around the house or just stand up and stretch, bend, and twist your body. Loosen up that torso. A fun favorite is to go completely limp. Relax your shoulders, neck, head, drop everything forward and downward, and just shake it all loose. Let it go for a good 30 seconds. Now, see if that doesn’t feel better when you sit down to work again?
- Stretch bands – You can grab these off of Amazon for five bucks. They’re excellent for stretching out the shoulders when you have your hands free. They can also facilitate full-body rotation and more complete stretching. Use these tools to keep your back more limber. You can also use them to facilitate hamstring stretches when you’re lying down.
You can also take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) and Tylenol (a pain medication). Just keep in mind that either of these should be used in moderation, that in heavy doses on a daily basis.
How to deal with back pain that doesn’t go away
If you’ve tried dealing with back pain on your own and you’re still experiencing pain that concerns you, it may be time to talk with your doctor. Your primary care doctor is a great place to start because your doctor knows you best and understands other aspects of your health and health history. If necessary, your primary care provider may recommend other specialists and perhaps physical therapy to support healing and relief for back pain.
Need more help dealing with back pain?
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