We all have them – friends, colleagues, and family members who dish out back pain self-care advice as if they are expert healers. They mean well, most of them, but there’s a lot of junk advice out there.
I’ll tackle some of the worst back pain self-care advice anyone could give to someone in pain, especially when the pain is chronic. Before we jump into that, let’s start with the basics – what kind of back pain am I talking about?
Different Types of Back Pain
I’m talking about all of them because the self-care advice out there is pretty generalized. Back pain is complicated. There are a variety of things that could go wrong in the spinal column, and medical providers usually describe them according to the parts of the body responsible for the pain, including:
· Muscular injuries
· Nerve damage
· Joint pain
· Bony issues
The easiest way for your doctor to determine what’s going on in your back is for them to do a thorough medical history and diagnostic studies to look at the structures. Most importantly, however, will be how you describe the pain. The description is one of the most helpful things you can give to your provider.
Here are some of the ways to describe the different types of back pain:
· Mechanical pain is in one spot or region. You can point directly to the pain’s location. Some descriptors include dull or sharp, constant, comes and goes, and throbbing.
· Referred pain is often described as an achy or dull pain that tends to move around to different body regions. For example, degenerative disc disease can cause referred pain in the hips and legs.
· Radicular pain is often described as a shock-like or searing sensation and usually follows the line of nerves going down the spinal canal. This is typically the result of a compression injury and/or inflammation at the spinal nerve root. Sciatica is a common condition in this category and can be caused by a narrowed spinal canal, herniated disc, or spondylolisthesis.
The Unsolicited Back Pain Self-Care Advice You Should Avoid
There are a few doozies on the internet for back pain advice. Here are four pieces you should always avoid.
1. “Stay in bed for at least a week.” If you do that, your muscles will deteriorate, and recovery will be more difficult. Instead, spend no more than three days in bed for the back pain. Start gentle stretches or low-stress activities as soon as you can. The kind of stretches will depend on the injury, so be sure to speak with your chiropractor before starting any new moves.
2. “Take higher doses of an anti-inflammatory.” That’s like pouring rubbing alcohol into a fire. Don’t take higher doses; just go for a standard dose if needed. Use ice therapy. If this is a chronic problem, talk to your chiro about a vitamin and mineral supplementation regimen that targets inflammation.
3. “Everyone with back pain should get spinal manipulation.” As much as I’d like this to be accurate, it’s most definitely not. Chiropractic treatment may not be the right answer for something like acute pain from a tumor. Instead, work with your chiropractor to determine a treatment plan that not only addresses your current pain but actively works to repair the problem with the appropriate specialist.
4. “Your mattress needs to be extra firm.” Of course, you don’t want anything too soft, but a too-firm mattress can put more pressure on the spine. If your bed is too firm, try mattress toppers or pads to help soften the surface.
With the advent of the world wide web came an onslaught of information – some good, some bad, but I recommend reviewing the sources of this article and taking a close look at who is giving you advice. If you need some help sorting through all the material, give me a call! I’m available for safe, in-person appointments, as well as phone and video consultations. Don’t wait until it’s too late to talk to a chiropractic doctor who gives it to you straight.