How to prevent and treat back pain

These recommendations could help you to ease the intensity and frequency of back pain. After all, it’s better to prevent it than cure it!

Causes of back pain

With modern life, the frantic pace of our daily activities and everyday stress, it’s no wonder that there are so many people who suffer from back pain. Our spine is one of nature’s wonders, when it functions correctly, that is. The spine supports the human body and often acts as a shock absorber, so it isn’t surprising that so many aches and pains start there.

Often, when there is pain, there is also inflammation, which is one way that the body responds to irritation and injury. The symptoms of inflammation include redness, heat, swelling and loss of mobility.

To make the pain disappear, one must start by identifying its root cause, if possible. Only then can the necessary measures be taken to eliminate it. However, in many cases, the exact cause remains unknown or it is difficult to treat. A thorough examination is often necessary to understand what is causing the pain.

Prevention: the best remedy

To avoid problems, you must treat your back well. Here are a few tips to help you prevent or reduce back pain:

  • Exercise regularly, keeping in mind your capabilities and limitations.
  • Try sleeping in a neutral position, on your side or your back, and place two pillows below your knees.
  • Adjust your workstation.
  • Ask for help when you must perform a physically demanding activity, such as lifting a very heavy load.
  • If you suffer from a backache, a few days’ rest is recommended in certain cases. A gradual return to normal activities may also alleviate the pain.
  • Do not stay completely still. If possible, stand up and walk a few minutes every hour.
  • Avoid wearing high heels. Choose the right shoes.
  • Avoid being overweight as this causes excess pressure on your back.
  • If your backache lasts more than a few days, speak to a doctor.

Heat or cold?

Applying a cold pack is generally advised in cases of inflammation, in other words, following an injury for example. Once the inflammation symptoms disappear, you can consider applying heat. This will help relieve and treat pain.

When the pain is chronic in nature, as with arthritis, heat is preferred. In some cases, your healthcare professional will suggest to alternate between applying heat and cold. It’s hard to get a clear picture, isn’t it? The best thing is to get the advice of a specialist for each situation.

Treatments

There is a wide variety of drugs and treatment options to relieve back pain. Here are a few examples:

Analgesics

Analgesics are drugs taken to relieve pain, which is why they are sometimes referred to as "painkillers". They have no anti-inflammatory properties. Acetaminophen is the most well-known and most popular analgesic.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can be useful. Not only do they relieve pain, they also reduce inflammation. Some of these drugs are available over the counter; others require a physician’s prescription. These drugs might not be suitable for you or they might interact with other drugs you are taking.

Muscle relaxants

These drugs reduce spasms and muscle tension. Their fast-acting effect is often appreciated and they enable the sufferer to resume muscular mobility. These drugs are mostly used in cases of acute pain (e.g. because of injury or a stiff neck) and are generally taken for a short period of time. The most common side effects associated with these drugs are drowsiness and dizziness.

Non-medicated treatments

There are many actions that can be taken to reduce back pain, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, chiropraxis, massage therapy, wearing an orthopaedic device (back support, belt, orthotics, etc.), acupuncture, surgery, etc. The treatment depends on many factors and must be adapted to each person.

This list of treatments is not exhaustive. Talk to your healthcare professional to learn about all the available options.

For more information on back pain, or for advice on how to prevent and treat back pain, consult your pharmacist.

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How to prevent and treat back pain

These recommendations could help you to ease the intensity and frequency of back pain. After all, it’s better to prevent it than cure it!
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