Suffering from chronic back problems? There are few things worse than having to continually deal with this persistent issue. This common medical problem may be the source of endless aches and pains. So, what are the key pieces of information you should know to treat and manage your back pain? Let’s take a look at some science-backed methods that could help:
Ways to Manage your Chronic Back Problems
Avoid Over-The-Counter Drugs
While turning to over-the-counter medication to ease the pain may seem to be the most logical course of action, it may not be as effective as most believe. A recent body of research from The George Institute for Global Health in Australia sought to decipher how effective various painkillers actually are when it comes to treating back pain. This study built on previous pieces of research, which had found that even opioids offer minimal benefits and, contrary to popular belief, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be ineffective.
The in-depth study, which examined 35 trials with more than 6000 participants, suggests that anti-inflammatory drugs are only efficient in offering short-term pain relief, and that there was no ‘clinical significance’ in using these forms of medication for chronic back pain. The report also noted that long-term use of anti-inflammatories makes patients two and a half times more likely to develop gastrointestinal problems in the future.
Stretch or Take Up Yoga
As someone who suffers from chronic back pain, your natural instinct may be to avoid too much stretching or activity in general. In actuality, taking up a yoga or stretching program could help to reduce your overall pain levels and make coping with your ongoing condition easier than it is now. In a 2011 randomized controlled trial of yoga in the U.S., researchers found that the practice was highly effective in aiding back problems.
After just 12 weeks of routinely practicing yoga, participants found that back-related functioning improved and symptoms decreased. Further still, the group of participants also took less medication for their condition for up to six months after yoga and stretching routines started. Hence, taking a class or even merely staying active at home could help improve your back.
Use Heat Packs on the Area
Knowing painkillers are not as effective as they ought to be in providing relief to sore and aching backs, if you want a natural way to ease the pain in the short-term, turning to a heat pack could be the answer. Applying warmth to the area helps to reduce muscle stiffness, which in turn, will mean that you feel less discomfort. This method of treatment is commonly called ‘heat therapy’ and is undoubtedly one of the simplest ways with which to deal with the problem.
The application of heat immediately stimulates your sensory receptors, blocking the transmission of pain signals to your brain from inflamed muscles. The pressure and warmth of a heating pad also work to boost the elasticity of your muscle tissue, relaxing any irritating knots you may have and even boosting your natural metabolic rate, which speeds up the natural healing process.
Avoid Painful and Awkward Activities
Needless to say, when you suffer from chronic pain, the last thing you want to do is put the area under excessive strain. That’s why it’s safest to avoid activities which cause you to exert the achy area. Overexertion can quickly exacerbate an existing back injury and lengthen the time it takes for you to recover. It’s crucial that you take care when completing various chores that could be extra strenuous like bending over at the garden, moving heavy furniture, or lifting heavy grocery bags.
Even the most mundane of daily tasks can also wreak havoc on your muscles when those tasks require awkward body positions. For example, you may find that bending down to put on shoes could pull on your lower back muscles. Investing in supportive aids like dressing tools or a reacher grabber will help you deal with these types of tasks and prevent further strain. A long shoe horn, for example, allows you to slip on your footwear without having to lean forward or bend down.
Reduce your Stress Levels
There is an unmistakable connection between your stress levels and your physical well-being. Practicing mindfulness as a stress reduction technique could offer a greater improvement in chronic back pain than alternative treatments, according to a 2016 study published in The JAMA Network Journal. At its core, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) means increasing both awareness and acceptance of experiences such as emotionally painful feelings and even physically uncomfortable moments.
In a trial involving older adults, this particular method provided a higher level of ‘clinically meaningful improvement’ than the usual care methods for treating back pain. The study also found that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) was effective in this area. The takeaway is that applying these methods to your daily life could help reduce your back pain.