If you have ever helped a friend move, planted a garden or tried a new sport, chances are you have experienced some level of back pain. Low back pain is a common complaint for many adults, affecting up to 80 percent of American adults at some point.
Thankfully, some simple self-care can often be effective in bringing relief. The next time you clean out the garage or weed your flowerbeds and end up with an aching back, keep these ideas in mind these tips from Iman Abou-Chakra, M.D., who specializes in treating back and spinal conditions as a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with Henry Ford Health.
- Comfort measures. Cold helps to reduce swelling, while heat decreases pain. By alternating the use of an ice pack and a heating pad, you can experience the benefits of both. Apply the ice pack for 15 minutes, three times a day. Be sure to put a towel between your skin and an ice pack. While sitting up, use a heating pad to ease your lower back pain, also for 15 minutes at a time. Do not sleep on a heating pad.
- Sit supported. It’s surprising how something as simple as sitting can put a strain on your back. Keep a rolled-up towel or pillow in your favorite chair so that your lower back is supported while you are sitting.
- Watch your posture. To avoid worsening your pain or reinjuring your back, be mindful of the way you move. Bend at your hips and knees rather than the waist. For heavy lifting, let your legs to the work, not your back. Keep the heavy object close to your body. Know your limits and respect them. If lifting your child is too difficult, sit side by side. Rather than lug three heavy bags of groceries into the house, carry one at a time or divide the items into smaller bags. It may take more trips, but your back is worth it.
“Self-care can be helpful, but I want to offer a word of caution—if lower back pain persists or becomes worse, it is time to see a health care provider,” says Dr. Abou-Chakra. “Symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the legs, muscle spasms, significant limitation in motion of the spine, a constant pain that does not decrease within a week, or a sharp, stabbing pain, need to be reported to your doctor. Your back pain could be your body’s way of alerting you to a bigger problem.”
To schedule an appointment with a primary care provider, visit henryford.com, or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) in southeast Michigan or 1-888-862-DOCS if you’re in Jackson or south central Michigan.
Dr. Iman Abou-Chakra specializes in orthopedic, spine and physical medicine and rehabilitation at Henry Ford Health in Jackson, Mich.