We speak to a muscular-pain consultant about how to best relieve back pain.
Plagued by back pain? While it’s a very common condition that affects most of us at some point in our lives, back pain can be debilitating and negatively impact your work life, your mobility and your mental health.
Dr Christopher Jenner, muscular-pain consultant at the London Pain Clinic, and Dr Dawn Harper, GP, combine their expert tips to help you manage your back pain:
What causes back pain?
The root cause of back pain often goes undiagnosed as it’s a challenging condition to get to the bottom of. ‘Most back pain sufferers will deal with the pain only when it increases in severity,’ says Muscular Pain Specialist Dr Christopher Jenner.
‘However, burying your head in the sand certainly won’t help. Your local pharmacist is well placed to advise you on pain relief should you need it in the first instance. If the pain is severe or persistent, see your GP who might decide to refer you to a specialist in pain medicine.’
How can I treat back pain?
Half of British people say back pain is one of the worst pains they experience. So, it’s no wonder that around 10 million sick days are taken because of the condition each year. ‘There can be a temptation to soldier on in the hope that it doesn’t get worse. However, there are many options and routes you can take to seek advice and pain relief, such as your local pharmacy, a physiotherapist or a chiropractor,’ says GP Dr Dawn Harper.
‘If you find that you need to increase your pain relief, ask your pharmacist for a combination painkiller to give you the benefit of paracetamol and ibuprofen in one convenient tablet. Being proactive can enable you to effectively manage your pain so you can carry on with your day.’
1. Hot and cold compress
Alternate between hot and cold to help ease the discomfort when back pain starts.
✔️ Try this: First, try soaking in a hot bath or placing a hot water bottle on the affected area. Then follow this up by placing a cold compress or a bag of frozen peas on the painful area. Remember, don’t put ice directly on your skin as it might result in a cold burn.
2. The right position is key
Sleeping with back pain can often feel like you’re sleeping on a bed of nails. Not to mention that a poor sleeping position can aggravate and worsen any niggling pains you currently have.
✔️ Try this: An important tip to remember is to try and take the pressure off your back. Try lying on your side, with a pillow in-between your legs to keep your spine neutral. If you want to lay on your back, try and elevate your legs with a pillow underneath your knees.
3. Work on your posture
It might seem obvious but poor posture is one of the most common causes of back pain. That said, most of us don’t know what good posture is or how to correct bad posture. Over time bad posture generates an increasing amount of pressure on your back which can lead to persistent aches and pains.
✔️ Try this: The trick is to try and not stay in the same position for too long. Whether you’re sat in a chair at home or at your desk in the office, it’s important to keep re-positioning yourself, taking frequent breaks and moving around to prevent your back becoming stiff.
4. Strengthen your core
Many people with back pain could benefit if they strengthened their abdominal muscles. It can also help reduce the likelihood of injuring or straining your back in the future. The abs are the front anchor of your spine, so if they are weak then the other muscles supporting your spine (your back muscles, for example) will have to work harder to pick up the slack.
✔️ Try this: Your core muscles tend to weaken with age unless specifically exercised. Crunches and wall sits are particularly effective, or try a class like Bootcamp Pilates.
5. Stay hydrated
The discs in-between your vertebrae rely on water to function properly. These disks play an important role in absorbing shock and stress from the body. If you are dehydrated, it causes the disks to shrink applying more pressure and stress on the vertebrae.
✔️ Try this: Make sure you drink eight glasses of water a day. This can be challenging, but the easiest way to manage this is to keep a daily tally and have your own water bottle which you carry with you.
6. Effective pain relief
Over-the-counter oral pain relief is a go-to option for acute muscle pain. There are now non-addictive options available in pharmacy to help you step-up your pain relief whilst enabling you to carry on with your day with as few side effects as possible.
✔️ Try this: Products that combine paracetamol and ibuprofen in a single convenient tablet means you get the tried and tested double action pain relief, as well as a more convenient dosage schedule. Speak to your pharmacist who can advise on the best treatment plan.