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How to Deal with Acute Pain

Back pain can be caused by many different structures in the body and therefore what helps one person will not necessarily be what helps another.  The general rule is that if it brings you relief it is safe to continue.  If it gives you pain it is best to stop.

Below are a few simple steps that are worth following to ease pain and begin healing.

  • Lie flat on the floor/carpet with your legs ideally resting on a chair with your knees at 90 degrees.  Place a hard book, (roughly the size of a telephone book) under your head as a pillow.  Lie with your hands resting gently on your belly.  This position introduces traction into the spine and allows the muscles and joints to relax. Stay in this position for about 15 minutes.  Try to do it in silence, without disturbance to allow the body to relax.  It is fine to listen to relaxing music but other distractions such as reading or talking will detract from the benefit of the exercise.
  • Normally the best position to sleep in is on your side in the fetal position with a pillow between the legs to take the strain off the low back.  Remember this is just a guide and if you feel that a different position is easier then this is most likely better for you.

Ice and Heat

  • If you are suffering with acute low back pain there will inevitably be a degree of inflammation in the area.  Inflammation is often perceived as being bad for the body but in fact it is the body’s attempt to heal the problem.  If the inflammation is in excess it can cause unnecessary pain.  Contrast bathing is a natural anti-inflammatory.  There is a variety of different views as to how to do this, but the author of this site recommends the following.
  • Take an ice-pack or a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and wrap it in a damp towel (to avoid direct contact between the ice and the skin).  Hold it over the area of pain for no more than 90 seconds.
  • Immediately place a hot water bottle (again be careful not to burn the skin) over the area of pain this time for about 60 seconds.
  • Immediately repeat the ice (step i)
  • Immediately repeat the heat (step ii)
  • Immediately repeat the ice (step i)

In other words you have done the following: ice; heat; ice; heat; ice.  The whole process will have taken you about 6 and a half minutes.

The logic behind this process is that together the ice and heat cause the blood vessels to open up and the inflammation to drain accordingly.  Applying the ice for too long will not benefit the body but may in fact inhibit the process.

If you are suffering with low back pain plus pain radiating into the leg it is usually best to apply the ice/heat to the low back even if the leg pain is worse than the back pain.

It was once thought that back pain sufferers should head straight to bed and rest for a number of weeks before attempting to get back on their feet.  Whilst it is certainly true that rest is an important part of the recovery process it is now widely accepted that movement is an vital factor in one’s recovery too.   

Inflammation usually builds up when the body is stationary for example after a       nights sleep.  If possible, try and potter around the house, resting when you need to.  This will allow the inflammation to disperse an strengthen the damaged tissues.

In other words, you want your routine to be a combination of rest and movement; resting when you feel the need and moving when you are comfortable enough to move.

If you are unable to tolerate the pain and you have resorted to taking pain-killers bare in mind that movements that may appear painless may actually be irritating the area of pain which is being masked by the medication. 

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