Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Treating Back Pain? Don’t Forget These Essential Reminders

When it comes to treating back pain naturally, myriad options abound - from icing to bracing, exercising, you name it, there are loads of ways to fight inflammation and muscle strain. Like with any valid treatment, however, there are often right and wrong ways to go about seeking true pain relief that targets the underlying cause of stiff, strained, and inflamed back muscles.

Check out these best practices for common back pain solutions:

Ice Therapy
When it comes to applying ice packs or cold compresses to inflamed back muscles, it’s important to remember that you should only ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. This allows the blood vessels to constrict and cut off blood flow, helping to slow pain signals being sent to the brain and reducing inflammation. If you ice too long, however, you run the risk of getting ice burn and you don’t allow blood to rush back in and flush out built up toxins and waste byproducts like it needs to in order to start the healing and repair process.

Wearing a Back Brace
If you’re sporting a soft back brace to provide support and compression to a sore lumbar spine region, or if you’re simply utilizing a brace for added stability while heavy lifting, don’t forget to adjust your lifting form and technique as well. While back braces have been shown, mostly anecdotally, to help people avoid muscle strain and injury, they do little if you are continuing to lift large loads incorrectly. Experts typically recommend no one (not even physical labor employees) personally lift more than 50 pounds without using a leverage device or machine. And avoid lifting straight off the ground. The most effective and least strenuous lifting happens when you pick something up from your ‘power zone’, or the area from mid-thigh to mid-chest.

Take Pain Medicine
While over the counter pain medicines may temporarily provide pain relief to achy back muscles, it’s important to remember that NSAIDS (like ibuprofen) perform differently than acetaminophen. In fact, the American College of Physicians reminds patients in their updated clinical guidelines that over the counter pain relievers come with their own range of adverse effects, including digestive issues from NSAIDS and liver damage from acetaminophen, and in multiple studies have been shown to have no greater impact on relieving back pain than a placebo.

Resting your sore back is important to help the body’s natural healing process do its thing, however, continuous inactivity can actually have the opposite effect you are striving for. Inactivity can lead to bad posture, poor eating habits, and weight gain, all which negatively impact the health of your back. Low-impact exercise like brisk walks and swimming have actually been shown to improve muscle and joint function, flexibility, and back pain.

A deep tissue massage can do wonders for back pain, helping break up knots and scar tissue, as well as increasing blood flow to strained and injured muscles. In fact, one 2012 study showed that massage following a workout actually stimulated cells to start tissue repair faster than they normally would. Your post-massage routine is just as important however, and this means remembering to drink lots of water. As a massage helps break up and release toxins that are built up in your muscles and other connective tissues, drinking lots of water helps the body flush those toxins to be filtered out by the kidneys and liver.

Mindfulness-cultivating practices like yoga and tai chi have been touted as potentially transformative back pain remedies because of their incorporation of gentle stretching, deep breathing, and meditation. To truly soothe painful back muscles, however, yoga practitioners must start slow and practice yoga regularly. A quick spurt of back-bending fast-paced yoga will do little for back pain, and may even make it worse. Beginners yoga (restorative, gentle, and senior yoga too) is a good place to start for back pain sufferers, and must be practiced weekly if not daily to truly feel the effects on your overall pain levels.

Self-treating back pain with proven remedies and activities is a smart idea, but if you attempt those solutions the wrong way, you may actually worsen your condition. Always stick to best practices and when in doubt, consult your doctor.

This is a guest blog posting.

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