What you will know
When you’re suffering from chronic back pain, the condition can affect all aspects of your life. You may have trouble sleeping, you may have to take time away from work, and you may be less likely to engage in social activities. Coping with chronic back pain can be a constant struggle. But there are ways to deal with the pain and to alleviate it too, depending on the type of back pain in question.
What Causes Chronic Back Pain?
One of the problems with back pain is the difficulty many medical professionals have in diagnosing its cause. Sometimes back pain is accompanied by other symptoms that can help doctors to make a diagnosis.
People suffering from a slipped disc, for instance, usually experience numbness and weakness in other parts of the body. Sciatica, an irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet, also causes numbness and tingling in other areas. Spondylitis and spondylolisthesis both cause stiffness as well as pain.
There are some treatment options recommended for these conditions. Doctors often start with a variety of non-surgical interventions such as painkillers, physiotherapy or gentle exercise before considering surgical options for patients with continuing pain.
If your back pain doesn’t fall into any of these categories, however, it could be that you’re suffering from non-specific back pain. This is the most commonly experienced type of back pain.
Non-specific back pain hasn’t been caused by a particular injury or condition. Frustratingly for many sufferers, non-specific back pain has no defined cause and no established cure.
Nevertheless, if you’re suffering from chronic back pain, there are some methods you can try to relieve it. It may be that you can experience some respite from the pain even if you can’t eliminate it.
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Ways to Alleviate Pain
Movement, massage, posture and, when necessary, painkillers, can all play a part in alleviating your back pain. Here are a few methods that may ease your pain if incorporated into your daily life:
Staying active is seen as a way to help both non-specific back pain and some diagnosable back conditions too. Resting for extended periods may make your pain worse so swimming, walking or even just taking the stairs rather than the lift could benefit your back.
Pilates is a gentle form of exercise specifically designed to improve your back health. Exercises focus on posture, releasing tension and building strength throughout the body. With each movement, you’re encouraged to utilize just a few muscle sets. This helps all of your muscles to build strength, pull their weight and take any unnecessary extra strain from your back.
A trained physiotherapist can often help relieve non-specific back pain. Through massage, they can locate problem areas. They can then provide exercise plans that will target those areas, releasing tension and alleviating pain in the process. Many back pain sufferers find that regular physiotherapy sessions help them to manage their pain more effectively.
Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine which involves inserting needles into specific points on the body. While there is little medical evidence to suggest it can help with back pain, there are many anecdotal reports from patients who have experienced relief following an acupuncture session.
People who work at a desk all day are particularly prone to back pain. This can be attributed to poor posture and the fact that our spines weren’t designed to be immobile for the majority of a day. If you do work in an office, minimise the strain you put on your back by creating a comfortable desk space that allows you to sit with optimum posture. You should be able to sit with your feet touching the floor, your upper and lower arms at right angles and your wrists resting on your desk.
Over the counter, NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) tablets or gels can help to reduce the back pain you experience. However, if these painkillers don’t provide long-term relief, it will be up to your doctor to prescribe something stronger. While stronger painkillers may alleviate your pain, they often have the potential to become addictive so it’s unlikely they would be prescribed for an extended period.
Ways to Cope with Pain
Some or all of the pain relief methods above may ease your discomfort. However, chronic back pain sufferers also need to develop strategies for coping with the pain they inevitably experience from time to time. The following procedures can help you to conquer some of the psychological aspects of pain:
When you experience a sharp or intense pain, your breath instinctively becomes shallower and more rapid. This can make you feel anxious and even dizzy. Concentrating on your breathing in these moments, breathing slowly and deeply, can help you to stay relaxed and in control. This will help to prevent muscle tension or stress from making your pain any worse.
Talk About It
Pain can have a significant effect on your mental wellbeing. You’re likely to feel tired, anxious and even depressed when suffering from chronic back pain. Talking about how you feel with a friend, family member or a counselor can help. You may also benefit from support groups where you can share your experiences with others who are going through something similar. Dealing with the feelings you have about your pain can help you to manage it more effectively.
Establish a Good Sleep Routine
Sleep deprivation has a major effect on your emotions and your physical health. It can also make your pain worse. While getting to sleep when you’re suffering from back pain may prove problematic, you should maximize your chances of getting a full night’s sleep. Stick to a regular bedtime routine, get up at the same time each day and avoid falling asleep on the sofa.
Help is Out There
However you choose to cope with your chronic back pain, know that there is plenty of support out there should you need it. If you haven’t already, speak to your doctor about your back pain. They will be able to give a professional medical diagnosis of your particular symptoms and confirm that your back pain isn’t related to a more severe condition. Seeking additional help from trained professionals like the team at Bend + Mend is also very beneficial.
Once you have a diagnosis in place, follow your doctor’s advice and refer to these strategies for managing your back pain long term. While chronic back pain is a common problem, it doesn’t have to be an impossible one. Keep positive and keep active to improve your chances of pain relief.
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