Ask Dr. Santos: Tips for Fast Back Pain Relief

Dr. Santos suggests steps you can take at home when you need back pain relief.

back pain relief

Anyone who has experienced back pain knows how debilitating it can be. You want relief, and you want it quickly. Back pain specialist Dr. Jose Santos offers tips you can act on immediately at home for fast back pain relief. In addition, he helps you understand when it’s time to set aside home remedies and schedule a medical evaluation.

If you seek back pain relief, you aren’t alone

“Back pain is a common problem,” says Dr. Santos. “The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke tells us that 80 percent of adults experience back pain at least once during their lifetime. The good news is that 95 percent of people with back pain get better with time or with conservative treatment.”

Home remedies for back pain relief

Knowing that you are likely to improve with time doesn’t mean that you want to wait for back pain relief. Dr. Santos has a number of suggestions you can try at home when you want fast back pain relief.

  • “A cold ice pack is a good choice immediately after a strain or injury or to calm sudden pain,” explains Dr. Santos. “That’s because cold helps to reduce inflammation. If you don’t have an ice pack, a cloth-covered bag of ice or frozen vegetables will work in a pinch. Just make sure you use a towel or cloth to protect your skin, and limit ice applications to no more than 20 minutes at a time.”
  • “Use heat if your back muscles are stiff, achy, or spasming,” instructs Dr. Santos. “A heating pad or hot-water bottle will do the trick. Just test the temperature to make sure your heat source isn’t too hot. You want back pain relief, but you don’t want to burn your skin.”
  • Over-the-counter medications. “Anti-inflammatories such as Advil and Tylenol are another option to ease acute back pain,” says Dr. Santos.
  • “It can be a challenge to start moving when you are in pain,” acknowledges Dr. Santos. “However, even moderate exercise like walking or gentle stretching exercises will loosen tight muscles. I encourage patients to remain aware during activities. Notice what aggravates your pain and what makes it feel better. If lifting or twisting aggravates your pain, dial those activities back a bit. Is your pain worse when you’re walking? Does it get better when you’re sitting? Is it worse at night or when you wake up in the morning? Does it get better with anti-inflammatories or not? If you do need to come in for a medical evaluation, knowing these details will help me make a diagnosis.”

When home remedies aren’t enough

“If you’ve been trying home remedies to get back pain relief for seven to ten days without success, it’s time to come in and be evaluated,” says Dr. Santos. “Or if you are treating your pain and it gets worse, I think it’s time to be evaluated. Finally, there are red flags that should not be ignored. If you experience any of them, you should come in right away.”

Red flag symptoms that require immediate evaluation

When back pain is accompanied by “red flag” symptoms, medical evaluation should not be delayed. Dr. Santos lists the red flag symptoms that signal a potentially serious medical condition.

  • “Bowel or bladder incontinence with back pain, sometimes accompanied by fever, is a definite red flag,” he says.
  • “When you feel weakness in your legs or arms and it doesn’t go away, don’t wait,” says Dr. Santos. “This weakness may be accompanied by extreme or radiating pain in your arms or legs.”
  • “Sometimes, back pain is accompanied by numbness in the crotch area,” says Dr. Santos. “This is another red flag symptom. If you feel numbness or any other red flag symptom, don’t delay. Call to get an appointment and be medically evaluated.”

Conservative care tailored to your needs

“At Summit, we take a conservative approach to back pain relief whenever appropriate,” explains Dr. Santos. “If you’re feeling pain and it’s persistent or uncomfortable or interfering with your daily life, don’t hesitate to come in and see me. I’m happy to evaluate you. Sometimes, the reassurance of an evaluation gives patients peace of mind. Other times, we have treatments that can help. As a nonoperative spine specialist, I offer conservative therapies such as injections, medications, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy that may resolve the problem. I’m always happy to see patients concerned about symptoms or pain, because there’s no reason to suffer. And in the event that your symptoms don’t get better with conservative care, I work closely with the surgeons on our team and can expedite a referral.”

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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  • Jose O. Santos, M.D.

    “I believe in the body’s innate ability to heal itself and use the most conservative treatment methods possible to help people reduce pain and achieve their highest level of function. I use a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment and am committed to caring for my patients and improving the quality of their lives.”

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