By Lori Melton
Lower back pain is a common ailment and can strike at any time. You can strain or injure your back during sports, exercise, an accident, or a heavy lifting. Aging also causes changes to your spine that can cause pain. If the pain is alarming and unbearable, you should seek medical attention. But, it may be comforting to know in many cases, lower back pain is short term and there are several non-surgical options that can give you relief.
Working with a physical therapist to establish an effective treatment plan is a great way to manage and relieve lower back pain. Therapists will usually customize physical therapy to meet your individual needs and concerns. Common therapy plans include stretches and exercises, as well as heat and cold applications, ultrasound and electric stimulation. Depending on your insurance guidelines, you may need a doctor’s prescription to start therapy.
Medication and Injections
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain like naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. In some cases, if these medications aren’t effective, your health care provider may prescribe a muscle relaxant and other stronger medications. In all medication-related treatment options, you’ll want to discuss the potential benefits, risks and side effects with your doctor.
Epidural injections of cortisone can also be given, per a doctor’s recommendation, if physical therapy and oral medications are not helping. Injections can help decrease inflammation in the nerves around your spine. When effective, pain relief from injections can last a few months.
Ice and Heat
You can do your own ice and heat treatments at home to help relieve back pain. Livestrong suggests using an ice pack for 15 minutes every two hours. Or, if the pain is severe, every hour. Use ice the first day of the injury, then after 24 hours, switch to a heating pad on the site of the injury for 15 minutes every two hours.
You might be surprised how much relief you’ll get from simply resting your back for 24 to 48 hours after an injury or accident. This means stay off your feet as much as possible and don’t engage your back muscles.
There are alternative treatments that may provide lower back pain relief. Options suggested by Mayo Clinic include acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, massage therapy and yoga. Before pursuing any of these, it may be a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.
Per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Is there anything you can do to help reduce your risk of becoming one of these statistics?
Mayo Clinic suggests maintaining good posture to reduce the amount of stress on your spine. When lifting objects, let your legs do most of the work. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees and never lift more than you can handle.
Doing low-impact exercise that don’t jolt or strain your back (like walking or swimming) can increase your strength and flexibility. Also, doing core-strengthening exercises that work back and abdominal muscles can condition your muscles to support your back.
Finally, maintaining a healthy weight will put less strain on your spine, which will ultimately help prevent back pain. In all cases, consult your doctor or seek immediate medical attention if your back pain is severe, extremely limiting to your mobility, or if none of these suggested tips help alleviate your pain.