Even when you are careful about your posture and take precautions when lifting heavy objects, it’s not always possible to prevent back pain. So how do you handle it once you have it? In most cases, you can treat it at home or with assistance from a doctor – it rarely requires surgical intervention.
The first, and most necessary, step to treating back pain is rest: taking a few days or even a few weeks, depending on the type and severity of your injury, to allow your back to heal is essential. Muscles, nerves, and other tissue need a chance to recuperate and reduce inflammation without being aggravated by excessive use. You should maintain some light exercise, such as walking, to keep muscles in shape, but not do anything that aggravates your pain. If, after several weeks, your pain has not let up, talk to your doctor about other methods of therapy.
You may look into medication as a means of pain management. There are many over the counter pain relievers that target inflammation or dull the transmission of pain signals; for more serious injuries, or chronically painful conditions such as arthritis, you may need prescription-strength medication, for which you’ll need to see a doctor. Cortisone injections may be an option for people with severe, ongoing pain, or pain that spreads from the back to other areas.
Physical therapy can be extremely helpful for easing back pain. A physical therapist can show you a variety of pain management strategies, from stretching and specialized exercises to electrical stimulation. They can also advise you on postural modifications, for both waking and sleeping situations, that can relieve pressure on your back and ease soreness. In some cases, they may be able to manually manipulate your back into a better position; you may also see a chiropractor for a spinal adjustment.
Alternating heat and ice application is one simple way to soothe back pain: use ice to reduce swelling and inflammation, and choose heat – preferably a moist heat, such as from a warm wet towel – to relax tense or sore muscles.