Low back pain is a major health issue. It affects 84 per cent of the working population at some point in their life and is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost work time. But back pain doesn’t have to hijack your sick days. Here are some universal ‘back facts’ to keep in mind if you catch yourself suffering from this pesky problem:
Rest vs. Staying Active
If you’re injured, you may have been told to rest until your injury has healed. However, avoiding exercise is the worst thing you can do when you are experiencing minor back pain. It is important to stay active when recovering from injury, but it is best not to exert yourself. You should reduce normal physical activities but continue to be as active as possible. At the end of the day, those who maintain active therapy recover quicker.
Your spinal column is made up of 26 bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by disks. The disks protect the bones by absorbing the shocks from daily activities like walking, lifting, and twisting. Injury or weakness can cause the inner portion of the disk to protrude through the outer ring. This is known as a slipped or herniated disk and can cause pain and discomfort in your lower back. In most cases, a slipped disc will revert back to its position spontaneously, but it can take four to six weeks to fully recover. You may have heard it’s best to rest your back if you have a slipped disc, but actually, remaining moderately active is ideal in order to keep muscles and ligaments warm and reduce the risk of creating more tension in your back.
Hot vs. Cold
Most people believe that a hot bath reduces back pain. The reality is that even though it may sound soothing, getting into a hot bath when muscles are inflamed can make matters worse by increasing the inflammatory response in an acute injury. Generally, it is better to apply ice to an injury for 15 to 20 minute intervals, during the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury.
When people have back pain, they often book the earliest massage. The truth is, when you’re in pain, a massage may help in some cases and hurt in others, depending on the cause of the back pain. For instance, the lower back may feel tight because of a muscle spasm occurring in an unstable region. A massage to this area without truly assessing the source and the reason for its tightness can inhibit the body’s way of protecting itself and cause more instability, thereby causing more pain.
Back Pain and Aging
No matter how many birthdays you celebrate, back pain should not become a normal part of aging. As we age, it‘s true that we can become more susceptible to certain types of painful back conditions. However, with all of the treatment options available today, back pain does not have to be a part of the aging process.
Anyone experiencing back pain is encouraged to consult a health care professional to assess your specific needs and identify a course of action that’s right for your specific condition.