According to the Global Burden of Disease, as many as 80% of the population will experience back pain within their lifetime. Whether it’s pulling a muscle at work, or lifting furniture at home, back pain can strike at any time, and it’s important to know how to treat not only your patients for back pain relief but yourself as well. The majority of back injuries can be handled without surgery, so it’s important to know exactly how to treat it.
Preventing Back Pain
It’s good to tell your patients the ways they can prevent back pain. Nobody likes to be stuck in bed with back pain or in pain for extended periods of time, so a few precautions can greatly reduce the chance of a back injury. These include:
- Exercises to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles that help support the torso. Through stretching or yoga, patients can gain flexibility in their hips and upper legs.
- Increase endurance through low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking and swimming.
- Lose excess weight to relieve stress on the back. Lift heavy items by following these guidelines: keep back straight, bend at knees, and use leg strength.
- When standing for long periods, alternate resting one foot and then the other on a low stool to relieve back stress.
- Choose seats or chairs with solid lower-back support and armrests.
- When sitting, take frequent breaks to stand or walk around.
Identifying Back Pain
Not only is it important to identify when you’re having a back issue, it’s important to address the issue by going to a healthcare professional. In many cases, a slipped disc or a hernia left untreated can lead to serious medical issues that could even turn fatal.
Make sure to identify if your patient has had previous back injuries. Oftentimes previous issues can reaggravate causing more damage than before.
It’s also important to try to isolate the issue by performing various exercises. Does it hurt when your patient stands, sits, jogs? Or does it hurt only when pressure is applied, like lifting a heavy object? Isolating the injury will allow you to identify and treat the issue better.
Treating Back Pain
There are various forms of treatment for back pain and most of them do not involve any sort of medical procedure.
One of the biggest recommendations you can give to a patient is to have them stretch early and often. Stretching in the morning allows your muscles to get loosened up before experiencing the wear and tear of a typical day. As a physical therapist, you can also assist in weekly stretching activities designed to loosen and strengthen back muscles.
Some doctors will prescribe medications to reduce pain and inflammation. While these will almost always relieve the pain, it’s important to remember just how addictive painkillers can be. If you or your patient can manage the pain without medication, that is the ideal situation.
Finally, another more extreme method is to inject steroids into the area, increasing the recovery time of your injury. Although this has been known to work, we still don’t know all of the long-term effects of injecting steroids into injured areas.