The majority of people will suffer from back pain at some time in their life and with day-to-day movements not causing any problems, they can often creep up on you. Sometimes pain or injury can come from overuse or everyday wear and tear; or, you may find that you injure your back during work-related tasks, sports or just doing something at home.
A back injury can occur anywhere, from the coccyx (the tailbone), right up to the neck. Injuries can be sustained to the joints and bones of the spine, spinal discs, or ligaments and muscles that keep your spine together and help your back movements.
The most common cause of a pain in the back is an injury. These occur when you start doing things that you aren’t used to doing, e.g. heavy lifting. Severe back injuries can occur if you receive a blow to the head or back, you fall from a considerable height, are involved in a car accident, suffer a penetrating injury (e.g. a stab wound) or have a heavy fall onto your buttocks.
Even though an injury to the back is the most common cause of pain, others will develop this pain over time. There are certain groups of people who are more likely to develop this, including those with a family history of this type of pain, older people, those who have been lifting and pulling heavy items, those sitting for long periods of time, and those who suffer from degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.
Treating a Back Injury at Home
It’s important to keep moving when you’re suffering from a back problem as bed rest will reduce the healing process. Try to return to work and daily activities as much as you can, modifying or reducing these where you need to so you don’t put any more strain on your back injury.
If you feel your back problem returning or you think you may have sustained an injury, apply ice / cold packs to the area for first 2 to 3 days. Apply this pack 3 to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes, going as far as doing this once an hour if the pain is severe. The coolness of these packs will help to reduce the pain you’re experiencing as well as the swelling. Be sure to put a towel between the pack and your skin to prevent frostbite.
During the first 48 hours of your injury, you should avoid anything that could add to the swelling of the area, including alcoholic drinks, hot packs and hot water (showers, baths etc.). If this swelling has gone after 2 to 3 days, you can use a heating pad on the lowest setting.
Preventing Back Pain
Unfortunately, there isn’t any clear evidence that indicates that back pain can be prevented. However, there are numerous ways you can try to help your chiropractic wellness and these will also help the recovery process should you find you are experiencing back pain again.
To keep your back strong and healthy, it’s important that you exercise to build up the muscles and strength in your body. You should also learn how to correctly lift heavy objects so as to protect your back, or refrain from lifting anything too heavy at all. Also, avoid putting any more strain on your back by maintaining a healthy body weight. Having a healthy diet and quitting smoking will also help you to keep your back in tip-top shape!
Always try to consider your posture, regardless of whether you’re standing or sitting, keeping your back straight at all times. Your sleeping position may also affect your back, so try to stick to the ones that protect the health of your back. To care for the back health of your children, you should also make sure they’re using their backpacks correctly and that they aren’t filling them too full, putting an unnecessary strain on their back.
If you do have a weak back or you have sustained an injury, there are some exercises that you should avoid. These include touching your toes while you’re standing; having your legs in a V position and stretching; lifting heavy weights above your waist (this includes bicep curls and military presses); lifting your legs while you’re lying on your back; bent- or straight-leg sit-ups.
You should also try to make sure you’re working environment is healthy too. Try to ensure you’re not sitting for long periods of time and that you’re not doing something repetitive. These can cause strain and stress on your spinal discs, blood vessels, joints, tendons, nerves and muscles.
Mia Baldwin is a physiotherapist with a sports training background. She enjoys writing in her spare time, usually focusing on health / injury related topics, and is also a dedicated runner, currently in training for her next marathon.