Most of us will struggle with pain at some point in our adulthood.
Per the CDC (2019), 59% of all adults reported experiencing pain, with back pain as the most commonly reported pain of all adults. That same report recorded back pain to be affecting around 45% of older adults. Bed rest is not usually recommended for back pain; correct activity is usually the most helpful for your recovery. So, for people whose back or body pain is intermittent, there may be days when you just need quick relief from your pain, in order to keep moving.
Although I am a physical therapist, I am not your physical therapist. This information is for educational purposes. Always consult your personal physician or health care professional for individual advice. Please see the medical disclaimer.
Here are a few back pain relief options to help you get moving:
Although the science behind medication, heat and cold for back pain is not conclusive, many people report short term pain relief with these measures. And if a cold pack, hot bath, jacuzzi, or heating pad allows you to get up and walk, and be active, then it is achieving it’s purpose!
Typical use of heat or cold would be for 15-20 minutes, every couple of hours. Be sure to monitor your skin, and take precaution if you have decreased sensation. Don’t allow a heating pad cord to be near your feet (think fall prevention). Do consider other medical issues before sitting a in a hot tub- pregnancy, heart conditions, and other situations may indicate that you should abstain. Don’t use a heating pad after surgery or near any infection. If your situation raises any doubt consult with your health team!
Make sure you are in good postural alignment while in your resting position! Whether lying down or sitting in a chair- make sure the aching area is well supported and in good alignment to not cause further pain or discomfort.
Deep Breathing can also be helpful for relaxation of muscles, and allow your pain to reduce.
Hand held massagers are very popular right now, they may provide relief for a tight muscle. (affiliate link)
Be cautious and read the instructions. Vibration may be an irritant for a herniated disc.
Topicals (Health line, 2020) deliver a small amount of medication through the skin. There is a prescription anti inflammatory ointment available, which is also now available over the counter. You should take caution to closely follow the directions with amount and frequency, as there may be a medicinal effect. There are many that use salicylates, similar to aspirin. Several use a menthol, or hot/ cold/ tingly sensation to ‘distract’ your brain from the pain, which may help your muscles relax. Capsaicin is made from hot pepper and blocks the nerve signal to reduce pain.
Make sure you wash your hands before and after applying ointment, and check your skin for reactions.
Pain Patches (Very-Well Health, 2020) deliver medication through the skin for typically short term relief. They can be per prescription with opioid, (which you would need to monitor closely if you take other other opioids) and use per physician recommendation with timing. Patches with non steroidal anti inflammatory medication (NSAID), usually prescription, are available. You should be aware if you use with other NSAID medication, and consult your physician for timing and amount. There are also pain patches with ‘analgesic’ or medication to numb the pain-this would work by blocking the signal that you have pain.
Make sure you wash your hands before and after applying a patch, and check your skin for reactions.
Figure out what works for your back pain, in order to keep active.
What I have found over the years, is that everyone responds a bit differently to various methods of relief. Find what works for you, with guidance from a health care professional as needed, and Just Keep Moving! Gentle exercises in good form or alignment is best. Walking is usually one of the best exercises for back pain. If your pain persists, don’t put off going to see a physician or Physical Therapist!
Clinicians: check out this back pain education packet at Creative Home Therapy/Etsy!
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