There is a lot of conflicting information about what to do when you hurt your back. So what do you do? Is it best to follow the olds wives tales or listen to what has worked best for someone else?
Heat or Ice
Heat is used to increase the blood flow to the area and thus get rid of the problem quicker. It has been proven to work in small studies for acute lower back pain. Ice is used to decrease the temperature, which in turn reduces inflammation and reduces the firing potential of the nerves. This means less pain is felt and it makes you feel more mobile.
Both have been proven to work for lower back pain and so it falls to your personal preference. The most important thing is putting on the heat or ice for approximately 15 minutes and allow 45 minutes in between each application. This will allow the tissues enough time to reach the temperature they require to have a therapeutic effect. If you feel you aren’t getting any benefit from one of the applications, then try the other.
Do I rest or do I stay active?
The old theory was that bed rest is the best thing for back pain. This is a terrible idea – prolonged bed rest actually allows the muscles around the area to weaken, which can allow an acute problem to turn into a chronic problem meaning you will have pain for much longer than you have to. Always stay active within your means. It is unreasonable to expect you to do everything that you used to do when you didn’t have back pain but try to do as much as you can. It is important to not overdo it though. Staying active does not mean returning to your scaffolding job lifting heavy objects without your knees bent. Go back to work and do lighter jobs before you feel your back is more stable.
Exercise or no exercise?
In an episode of back pain it is always a good idea to stop moderate and high intensity exercise until the episode subsides. Running, cycling, and weight training can all put extra pressure through already injured joints leading to either more pain or an extended recovery time. If you do go back to any form of exercise make sure it is low intensity. This should keep the muscles working and joints moving without too much pressure being put through the spine.
See a chiropractor
If the pain doesn’t disappear within a few days then it is probably a good idea to get yourself checked over by a chiropractor as soon as possible. If the problem is caught early then there are usually far less complicating factors such as reduced muscle strength. A chiropractor will examine and diagnose the problem, get rid of the pain, and prevent any future occurrences.