Over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed back pain, it’s causes and what you can do to prevent it in some detail. This week, we round out this series with a quick look at a personal back pain management plan. Having a simple model like this to turn to can be a real benefit in seeking the correct treatment quickly and therefore recovering faster.
Back pain is a common issue, and its one that most of us will experience – on average, several times a year. The biggest mistake that most of us make however, is dealing with a flare up in the wrong way and often, making a small problem into a large one. Try these steps to manage back pain more effectively:
STEP 1 – Assess the type of pain, and severity
In the first instance, you should try to establish the severity and the likely type of your pain.
If your pain is especially severe, such that you are unable to move at all, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms which demand the immediate attention of a doctor, seek immediate medical attention. If your pain is manageable, however, think about the case of pain if you can – did the pain begin suddenly, or develop over a period of time? Have you recently participated in any sporting events, or in a strenuous activity such as garden work or decorating?
In the event that your pain has arisen suddenly, we suggest you visit either your GP (to rule out any more serious issues) or a spinal specialist such as a Chiropractor for a professional consultation.
If your pain has developed more slowly, especially if you notice that the pain is worse in certain circumstances (for example when sitting at a desk) your pain will almost certainly be better served by a spinal specialist.
Before you do anything else, book an appointment with your chosen professional.
STEP 2 – Apply initial self-care techniques
Whilst waiting for your appointment, apply the self-care tips outlined last week. Above all, avoid any further activities which may worsen the condition. When injured, strained or otherwise impaired, the spine is far more vulnerable to further injury so exercise caution.
Use painkillers and NSAID’s sparingly – if possible, do not take medication on the day that you will visit your chosen spinal professional, it will be more helpful for them to have an accurate readout on your pain, without painkillers in the mix. Only ever use medicines as suggested on the label – speak to your pharmacist if you have questions.
Do not overlook the value of self-care, and do not be tempted to simply lay down and remain inactive. Applying self-care steps at the onset of pain may help to reduce pain immediately, but most importantly will significantly reduce the chances that your pain will be accidentally worsened.
DO NOT ignore the pain and DO NOT continue with any physical activity which may have been responsible. “Pushing through” ALWAYS leads to injury and significantly extends recovery time!
STEP 3 – Get a professional evaluation and choose a treatment method
If you are an NHS patient and have booked an appointment with your GP, once they have ruled out any serious conditions, you should consider booking an appointment with a spinal specialist at this point.
If you are a private healthcare patient, ask your Doctor for a referral to a spinal specialist – your cover will include at least some care in most instances. Your doctor may recommend a certain practitioner based on their own observations, as private doctors often have greater diagnostic resources available to them at the time of your appointment. A Chiropractor will often be the best choice for low back pain.
When consulting with a spinal specialist, such as a Chiropractor, try to take as much information about your condition as possible with you. In most cases, you will be given some brief survey forms to fill out which will help the specialist to establish the possible cause of your pain. If you have any notes or thoughts of your own please do bring them to your appointment, however – these can be very helpful.
A spinal specialist will recommend a course of treatment designed to control, then reduce and eventually eliminate your low back pain. Typically, you will attend an initial consultation appointment, followed by a review of findings and your first treatment.
Some clinics, such as Complete Chiropractic may be able to offer a multidisciplinary treatment plan, for example involving Chiropractic treatment to correct a spinal issue, and massage to help reduce your pain in the immediate term.
STEP 4 – Attend your appointments, and follow recommendations
Taking Chiropractic care as an example, most patients notice a considerable improvement in their levels of pain after just a few treatments. Especially if you have suffered with pain for a long time, but have sought help due to an acute episode, you may be tempted to resume your normal activities at this point.
Resist the temptation to do this, and act on the recommendation made by your professional – just because your pain is reducing does not mean that your underlying condition is totally resolved. During the early phases of recovery, you are far more likely to reinjure or overstrain yourself. This is especially important for sportspeople and the very active.
STEP 5 – Eliminate the original cause of pain
One of the main benefits of seeking help from a spinal specialist is that they will be able to get to the bottom of that non-specific pain. In fact, the cause is usually one of a handful of common factors, which lifestyle adjustments or ongoing care can counter for.
One of the major advantages offered by a Chiropractic clinic is the facility to provide the ongoing Chiropractic maintenance care which we mentioned earlier. By choosing a Chiropractic clinic which also offers services such as massage or sports therapy, you can probably get the best of all worlds, giving you the best possible chance of avoiding a future flare up.
No matter which treatment course you choose, however, if changes to the factor which caused your pain in the first instance are not made, your pain will almost certainly end up reoccurring.
STEP 6 – Monitor for flare-ups
Once your pain has been addressed and you have taken action to mitigate the factors which led to your problem, your risk of reoccurring back pain will, of course, be much lower. Having said this, since there are so many possible sources of back pain it’s entirely possible that you’ll experience another potentially problematic situation in the future.
Once you have been through treatment for pain once, however, you will have a good sense for the warning signs. Experiencing a twinge or some reduction in movement after trying out a new workout program? Take action at the first sign and let your spinal health professional know – as, with most things, early intervention can prevent another episode altogether!