When does pain become chronic?
Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond 3 months. This can occur in a quarter of back pain cases. The cause and treatment of chronic pain is different from that of classic acute back strain.
How does back pain develop?
Back pain often develops after you make an awkward movement causing a muscle spasm or strain. It can sometimes occur without any obvious precipitating cause. Generally, this sort of pain settles in a short period of time following the usual treatments of rest, heat and analgesics.
When the pain persists, there may be underlying reasons that require further investigation. These causes might include such things as:
- living habits: too strenuous activities or not enough physical activity, poor quality mattress or chair.
- type of work: jobs that require activities such as carrying heavy loads,, spending long hours at the wheel, standing for protracted periods of time, etc.
- work environment: dissatisfaction with the work or supervisors, stress, job changes, etc.
- personal difficulties: marital, financial, etc.
- health: sleep problems, nervousness, anxiety, tension, etc.
What can I do to stop my back pain?
Contrary to popular belief, bed rest is not the best treatment for back pain. In fact, it can prolong the pain.
In so far as it is possible, you should continue to perform day to day activities. Try to identify the cause of the problem and remedy it if possible (for example, modify your work station if it has a poor layout and organization).
Will medication help the pain?
Yes. Medication for pain and muscle spasms can provide relief. However, it is important to be aware that “over the counter” medication can have side effects and may interact with other medications that you are taking. Be sure to read the product inserts and adhere to the recommended dose. Your physician may also prescribe muscle relaxant or pain medications for you.
Should I get a lumbar support belt?
The wearing of a lumbar support belt may provide some comfort in performing certain tasks, but it does not prevent the reappearance of the pain. It has a role in helping one learn good posture but it may give you a false sensation of security and encourage you to perform movements that are harmful to your back.
Should I stop playing sports?
Sports and related activities can strengthen the muscles in your back and limit the risk of the pain reappearing. However, you should choose less strenuous activities such as swimming or yoga until your symptoms have improved. Remember that no matter what the physical activity, you should begin the activity gently and spend some time cooling down afterwards in order to prevent further injury.
Are there any activities that I should avoid?
Avoid bending and twisting movements. Be especially careful when lifting heavy objects – bend your legs and keep your back straight. If you have the choice, choose bags carried with a shoulder strap rather than those carried in your hands; otherwise distribute the load evenly between your two arms. You should also consider using bags, carts and suitcases on wheels.
Be sure that your workstation is designed in such a way that it does not contribute to your problem.
Avoid driving a car for long periods. If you must remain seated for an extended time (in a car, on the train or plane, in front of the television, etc.), support your back well by using a cushion. Choose straight chairs over soft sofas.
Occupational activity is often responsible for the persistence of back pain.
Strict rest is often not the answer. Modification of your workstation and monitoring of daily movements is required. Your physician or physiotherapist may be helpful in outlining activities for you.
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