More than 45 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain, with the pain lingering for more than three months at a time. It’s such a pervasive issue that it accounts for more doctor visits per year than almost any other condition, second only to upper respiratory concerns such as the common cold.
If you’re struggling with chronic back pain, the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) offers the following tips for managing your pain on a day-to-day basis:
1. Narrow Down the Cause
If you haven’t already, make an appointment with a spine doctor who understands and specializes in back pain. By reviewing your symptoms, taking a medical history and performing necessary diagnostic tests, your doctor can narrow down the cause of your back pain.
Because SSI offers everything under one roof, your physician can pinpoint the cause of your pain – and treat it accordingly. Whether you have a slipped disc, bone degeneration, a pulled muscle, or simple fatigue, you need to know where your chronic back pain originates before you can start a treatment plan.
2. Shift Your Focus
When chronic back pain won’t let up, it’s hard to shift your focus away from the pain. Fortunately, certain strategies help you manage as you keep up with your daily life. These relaxation techniques help quiet your mind and release the tension that may be contributing to your pain:
- Visualization teaches you to picture a scene or situation in which you feel comfortable and safe. This is the proverbial “happy place” you can visit to take your mind off the pain.
- Distraction is just what it sounds like: shifting your focus from your pain to something more engaging, such as an exciting TV show, a game or conversation with friends or family.
- Relaxation training helps you learn to control your breathing so you can physically relax your body and mind.
3. Feel the Warmth
Heat can be especially helpful when dealing with chronic back pain when it’s caused by muscle strain. Follow your doctor’s advice by taking a hot shower or bath at home to apply heat to your back. Try adding a handful of Epsom salts to your bath for additional relief.
A simple heating pad also works wonders, applying heat directly to the part of your back that’s hurting. Over-the-counter heat patches or warming muscle rubs, available at your local pharmacy, provide lasting relief while you work or exercise.
4. Get Moving
Talk to your spine specialist at SSI about exercise that’s safe to do with your back pain. Stretching exercises such as yoga or Pilates often help tight muscles loosen up. Swimming or water aerobics provides relief as you work out the kinks from your aching back.
A trained physical therapist, available at SSI, can teach you exercises specifically designed to help relieve your back pain. In addition to the physical benefits, exercising releases endorphins – hormones that decrease your pain awareness and improve your mood.
5. Use Caution with Pain Medication
There’s no shame in reaching for an over-the-counter or doctor-prescribed pain reliever when your back pain is impeding your life. Pain relievers can be the key to getting a good night’s sleep or being able to sit through a nourishing meal. Pain medication is an effective, but temporary solution.
Maintaining your overall health is a significant part of pain management. With your SSI team’s assistance, you’ll learn how to incorporate other methods of pain management while working to get at the root of the pain and addressing it with the most appropriate treatment.