If you are reading this, chances are you are struggling with some form of back pain. Sometimes a debilitating and depressive condition which often arrives without warning and sometimes (it seems) without reason.
This post will hopefully give you some advice, support and tips which will ultimately help you cope with Chronic Back Pain, muscle spasms, and or general poor back health. There are many excellent sources of support and I have listed many in this article.
I am an otherwise fit and healthy 62 year old female. I am unsure when I first noticed but several months ago I felt pain in my right side, especially on waking. One morning I went to get out of bed only to suffer a crippling muscle spasm which rendered me immobile and crying with pain. For the next two weeks I suffered many more spasms. I have subsequently undergone a whole series of clinical appointments, tests and seen a few specialists. I am slowly getting more mobility and I have researched this one question many times how do I cope with back pain? These are some of the ways
- 1/ Coping With Chronic Back Pain
- 2/ Treating Back Pain Without Surgery
- 3/ Chiropractor or Osteopath
- 4/ Spinal or Musculskeletal
- 5/ Medication
- 6/ Holistic Solutions
- 7/ Stress Relateds
- 8/ One Simple Daily Trick
- 9/ Positions For Sex – when suffering Back Pain
- 10/ Sleeping With Chronic Back Pain
- 11/ Which is The Best Mattress
- 12/ Tips To Protect Your Lower Back
- 13/ Good Habits To Adopt
Image By:Toa Hiftiba – Unsplash
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Spinal Anatomy, physiology or Cranial techniques, nor do I have “hands on” clinical or patient facing training. I will defer to the Medical and clinical Links for guidance where necessary.
1/ Coping With Back Pain
Starting with the real nitty gritty. How do you cope with Back Pain when it is chronic or a nagging ache. None of the following suggestions will be a quick fix however by starting a pain diary will give you some clues. EG. when is it worse or lesser, in addition, it is useful to periodically do a quick 1-10 pain “check in”.
For example, you may find it an excruciating on waking (for instance an eight out of 10 pain) and again or similar when you have sat still in the same position for a considerable period. You may find that when walking your back pain is reduced to a more manageable level. You may also notice certain foods appear to aggravate. I certainly found when suffering with an IBS “flare up” after eating excruciating garlic and broccoli my back pain was at its worst, sometimes as high as 9 out of 10.
Visit your physician or Doctor for guidance and helping to manage the pain especially if you are unable to cope. You don’t need to suffer on your own. When you visit the professional be as clear and as detailed as you about how and when the pain manifests, what its like,…..for example is it a sharp stabbing pain or is it an ache like a headache or period pain. Be as specific as you can be. Your Pain Diary will help. In addition to seeing your physician here are some useful tips.
- Keep active don’t sit for long periods and maintain correct posture during activities. …
- When sitting for long periods, ensure you sit on a supportive seat and take frequent short tiny breaks.
- Use ice ointment or heat treatment. (whilst expensive heat pads give instant relief and last for a considerable time
- Stretch frequently, especially when stationary for long periods
- Wear proper footwear, comfortable shoes, without heels, nor flat
- Are you overweight It will inevitably aggravate if you are above a healthy weight.
- If you are on prescription pain killers follow the advice and don’t self medicate
- Over the counter pain killers may give relief…..but do not rely on for continuous or long periods.
2/ Treating Back Pain Without Surgery
it is frequent that “Back and Neck Pain is as a result of musculoskeltal, strain or nerve injury and do not require surgery. Musculoskeletal pain can be in one area or widespread, can appear to start rapidly and can cause *chronic and sometimes long-lasting pain. Often in the lower back.
it is these types of pain we are looking at today. You may notice one or two similarities to Topic 1
- Physical Therapy
- Holistic treatments like Acupuncture, reflexology
- Practice Mindfulness
- Diet – With particular emphasis to Anti Inflammatory Foods
- Diet/Weight loss to achieve a healthy weight
- No joy from your Doctor ask for a 2nd opinion and possibly Biofeedback
- Exercise – Specifically tailor made for you
- Practice Gentle Yoga.
- Lifestyle Modification – Listen to your body when it hurts don’t do it. & Give up Smoking
- Injection Based Treatments
3/ Chiropractor or Osteopath – Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can have a profound effect on pain management and road to recovery. This can include Chiropractor, Osteopath, and Acupuncture, There are many additional excellent Holistic remedies which we will cover in Topic 7
One of the miracles for me was the clever manipulation used by my Osteopath. As a practitioner they treat the “whole body” which in my case included arms, legs, head and in fact my whole body. In addition, she was treating my continual and ongoing headaches, insomnia, my diet and of course my back pain. (diagnosed as Musculoskeletal)
Both Osteopath and Chiropractor will study your posture both supine and standing, both will give you exercises requiring you to complete (daily) and in between appointments.
The practice I visited came highly recommended, and this would be my suggestion for you, find one whom you trust and one who has good and proven results.
On your first visit you will usually undergo a long initial assessment which includes many questions about lifestyle. First appointment is often 75% initial assessment and only 25% treatment.
In my case they felt an Osteopath would be a better fit as this treated the whole body as well as the spine. An ongoing appointment with the Chiropractor can last as little as 20 minutes, Chiropractor tend to be specifically focused on treating your muscle and joint pain with a view to making adjustments to the vertebrae of the spine.
Osteopaths aim to treat the body as a whole and will look at how they each interact as a structure and is often why the time spent with your Osteopath can be considerably longer.
4/ Spinal, Muscle or Musculoskeletal
Most common causes of Spinal back problems:
“Spinal Stenosis” – a narrowing of the spinal canal and can lead to nerve damage, can be age related or prior injury.
“Arthritis of the Spine” – Gradual thinning of the cartilage inside of the spine. Usually age related
Bulging and related Disc problems – Often causing nerve damage.
They can vary in pain level but can be excruciating.
Some conditions may require surgery if they are impacting on other areas, for example your bowl or bladder, or if it causes walking and balance issues.
Musculoskeletal pain can affect bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves. Can be acute pain with a quick onset and without warning. It can be localized or it can be widespread. Muscle spasms are debilitating and can cause mobility issues until the spasm has receded.
Other symptoms of this condition can include tiredness (fatigue) disruption to sleep and can impact many areas of the body. Clinical advice and solid information surrounding Musculoskeltal can be found on the attached link: Cleveland Clinic
Anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and stronger painkillers like Opioid based meds, all of this can be used to control *chronic back pain. However, they are not intended for long term use and will come with side effects. For some these side effects outweigh the benefits
Many pain killers are addictive and fail to address the cause of the pain. Never the less there may be occasions when you have tried all other routes and you require some relief from the pain. If your Doctor has failed to make any sort of diagnosis and you are relying more and more on opioid/controlled drugs you should perhaps seek another opinion or ask for diagnostic testing.
The ASA.org website offers some excellent information surrounding Opioid medication click on the attached link
Injection Based Medication
Nerve Blockers and Steroid based Epidural injections can and do have successful outcomes. Successful when the location and type of pain has been isolated and identified. If your back pain is chronic then this could offer relief. It is not a long term solution and not intended to be used in isolation.
Often used for pain management during labor.
Tens Machines have mixed reviews and some may receive great benefit whilst others find the benefits are small. There is no doubt it helps but like many pain solutions it is a short term fix
6/ Holistic Solutions
- Gentle Yoga – Click for exercise instruction.
- Reiki Massage
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Tai Chi
- Stretching and Flexible core exercises.
- Heat Patches
Whilst stretching and flexible stretching is not strictly holistic I am going to include these in the list.
All can be used as a way of helping cope with the pain and re-training the brain. Living with pain can be exhausting and often cause irritability and stress.
I personally found pain (albeit background pain on some days changing to chronic on others) did cause me to become depressed, irritable and generally negative and hostile. Not everyone reacts in this way but using holistic measures will undoubtedly help with mood and significantly help with pain management.
7/ Stress Related Back Pain
Signs and signals your body is reacting to stress.
Stress is a symptom, it is the bodies own way of dealing with danger or a threat (real or imagined) the old “flight or fight” instinct will kick in. However, the side effects on the body are often physical. e.g mood swings, headaches, even weight gain or weight loss. Another overlooked side effect is pain in the back and or neck. Often the adrenalin which is produced by the continual fight or flight (stress) will cause the body to operate, stand & posture differently. This can then result in back and neck pain and ultimately musculoskeletal back problems.
The first step noticing we are actually suffering with stress. Like the numbered 1-10 pain guide, stress can also be gauged in a similar way. Used as a way of “checking in” with stress levels may help you understand why and when the body reacts the way it does.
Many holistic solutions like mindfulness and acupuncture can deal with the symptoms but maybe first identify the cause of stress and attempt to find a workable solution. This may require a change in how you live, how you earn money or indeed work patterns. Ultimately you have to decide the importance of your health.
I personally (every morning) will take an additional 10 minutes out of my day to practice mindfulness. This is well worth the investment of time together with practicing each and every time (for shorter periods) when you feel under pressure, a shorter mindfulness exercise. A really good mobile app is “Headspace” they offer guidance for beginners as well as the experienced. They also have a very good website see below.
Click here for Headspace.com – for stress
8/ One Simple Daily Trick
I am going to say Handbag, I recently read an article about the average weight of a woman s handbag (purse in US) is often over 3kg (6.6 Lbs). To put into some kind of perspective, that is three bags of sugar or an average weight of a Yorkshire Terrier Dog. Now imagine if this bag or Dog is held on your arm whilst you shop, commute, or tote around all and every day. It will and does have a profound effect on posture and general back health.
Simple daily trick is to frequently empty your bag of any unnecessary and hoarded bag fillers. A better weight will be keeping below 2kg (4Lbs) . In addition, it is suggested by Chiropractors that it is better to carry the bag on your shoulder, or better still across your body.
9/ Positions For Sex With A Bad Back
Is back pain messing with your sex life? Do you find that the prospect of intimacy causes anxiety and when attempted it causes pain, this will have an obvious consequence to any form of romance or intimacy. Your partner may also be concerned that he or she may be causing pain and this too may have a negative impact. You may also find that in the event you are taking strong pain relief medication this too has an impact on libido and will feature low on the priority list of things to be overcome.
However, there is a lot of good advice for couples, both online and agencies offering support for those who wish to continue with sexual relations. For couples who are nervous about exploring what is possible and what may be agony will also have a lot of information at their fingertips.
Healthline – (An American Medical Website) offer visuals (animated) and guides with explanations. I found this website to be most informative and offer considered and well researched views and articles. I have included the Healthline.com link which takes you directly to the relevant pages where you can find useful suggestions and animated images, (easier on the eye)
They suggested several positions which will be less strain for both parties without additional weight on the back. Whichever position you try, just keep it gentle and slow. You can add pillows or other types of support and trying a new position maybe all that it takes to make lovemaking something to look forward to and not dread.
Possible Positions You Could Try:
- Doggy Position
- Side By Side
- Missionary – (the person without back issues would be the one bearing the weight)
10/ Sleeping with Chronic Back Pain
For many “Back Pain” sufferers (myself included) it is the waking and getting out of bed that fills me with dread. Being Often in a sedantry position for any period can and does cause chronic pain on moving or waking, This has included muscle spasm which is both scary and horrendously painful.
Understanding and locating where the pain emanates is a good first step, if it is a widespread pain then isolate which side is the most acute, this will enable you to choose the most bearable side on which to lie or to avoid.
Avoiding alcohol before bed is important as often this can mask the pain, you may then fall asleep in a poor position. Same with very strong pain killers which cause drowsiness, on waking you may find yourself unable to move because when falling asleep the pain was mitigated.
If you are taking nighttime pain relief try to ensure a good routine pre sleep, for many a warm bath, ice or heat on the areas, and retiring to bed whilst you are in full control of all faculties and not simply nodding off on the sofa or chair.
For many the best position is on your back with a pillow offering support under the legs, alternatively, if one side of the body can take the weight, then side on with ta supporting pillow either under the top leg or between the two legs. I find I need another pillow underneath my top arm as I have shoulder pain in addition to back pain.
11/ Which Is the Best Mattress for Chronic Back Pain
This topic is worthy of an article all of its own together with product reviews. I will review Best Mattress from reliable and trusted sources at a later date. For now, I will simply include the Best Mattress for Chronic Back Pain as suggested by Chiropractors .
Memory Foam, Latex or Pocket Sprung?
The general consensus from Chiropractors is “Memory Foam”, this because they don’t sag. Latex offers equal support and it would seem that firm is better than soft and is a reliable support for you and your back. In addition, both Latex and Memory Foam are also good for sufferers of Sciatica and Hip Pain.
If you are not 100% convinced about the Memory Foam mattress as a support, then I suggest you consider a “Hybrid” this is partial Pcket Sprung and partial Memory Foam, or Partial memory foam and partial latex.
Many offer a 30 – 90 day review of the mattress which means you have nothing to lose.
12/ Tips To Protect Your Lower Back.
If you look after your lower back you may never suffer with chronic back pain.
Strengthen your core – Daily – This could be a brisk walk or an activity which increases your blood flow. Low impact aerobic exercise.
- Water Therapy – Swimming with or without pool floats, gentle water exercise, hydrotherapy pool
- Exercise Ball – Sitting or gently bouncing for 20 or 30 minutes at a time (throughout the day) This engages the core muscles and will strengthen over time. Stretching on the ball provides support and resistance.
- Take Control of Any Weight Gain.
13/ Good Habits That Can Help
Physical therapy for chronic back pain may include:
- Guidance and Advice on Posture
- Learning to live with pain and continually testing the limits
- Daily exercise, including stretching and flexibility
- Water Aerobic exercises
- Daily Walking
- Eat a good healthy and varied diet.
- Lose the weight.
- Keep active, don’t sit still for long periods.
- Keep Hydrated
- Warm Baths with Essential Oils, or Himalayan Epsom Salts
Support & Advice
Throughout this article I have listed websites and agencies who are specifically trained to deal with “Back Pain” whom are expert in their field. For ease of reading I have listed them in the summary section below.
The advice offered on all websites is:
Do not be afraid to ask for help,
Do not suffer in silence and
Do not be afraid to seek another opinion if the first solution does not appear to work.
Back pain vary from person to person and what works for one may not for another. It is ok to ask more questions of your physician or Back specialist.
I would like to thank you for reading thus far and I would also like to hear your story or any comments you may have.
See you soon
Founder of Heyspringchicken
*”Chronic back pain” is a medical classification when you have suffered for three months or more
Source of information:
theros.org.uk – Osteoporosis Learning to live with pain – Back Exercises
Headspace.com – Meditation and Mindfulness
Healthline.com – Sex Positions to try if you have a bad back
Featured Image: Tumisa – Pixabay
other images: as stated in the caption