Four out of five Americans experience an episode of back pain. Pain and stiffness can make daily activities challenging, but are not necessarily signs of a serious spine problem that requires medical attention.
Most people who experience discomfort can treat back pain themselves with:
- Modified rest: Remain active and choose exercise that does not make your symptoms worse. Inactivity for an extended period of time is not a good idea, and may even make it more difficult to recover.
- Appropriate gentle exercise
- Medication: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve swelling and provide temporary pain relief. Studies suggest that Ibuprofen provides better relief from inflammation-related back and neck pain.
- Ice and Heat: If pain flares up right after activity, use an ice pack to reduce swelling. If achy soreness persists over time, or if you wake up with sore muscles, apply a heating pad to help ease muscle tightness.
- Massage: Massage therapy for persistent low back pain has been shown to reduce the need for painkillers by providing temporary pain relief. Massage can be an effective treatment to reduce stress, pain, and muscle tension.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Extra weight puts increased stress on the structures of the spine. You can set your own weight-loss goals or get nutrition guidance from Summit’s wellness dietitian.
- Walking: Walking delivers excellent health benefits, a better-conditioned spine among them. Regular walking can also ease episodes of back pain by stimulating the large nerves in the leg muscles. These leg nerves send stronger signals to the brain that override the pain messages sent by smaller nerves. Studies have shown that a single session of walking—as little as 10 minutes on a treadmill—can lead to a significant reduction in low back pain.
Using these methods, 95 percent of people get better within three months without medical treatment.
At Summit, we understand the power of prevention. We know that anyone who has experienced an episode of low back pain is 76 percent more likely to have a second episode; however, with core exercises, we can reduce the risk of back pain recurrence to 29.8 percent. Our simple weekly exercise programs have been developed to prevent a single episode of pain from becoming a recurring medical problem.
If your pain does not improve over time, or is accompanied by other symptoms that concern you, our spine team is here to evaluate you, develop a treatment plan tailored to your symptoms, and get you back on the road to recovery.
Check out the variety of articles and resources below on prevention and self-care tips from Summit spine experts:
Dr. Choi treats patients with chronic back pain, and she explains the range of nonsurgical therapies available to relieve pain.
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Ask the Expert: Spine Video Series