First Aid – for backs!

That horrible moment when you realise that you’ve just done something that has hurt your back, and now you don’t know what to do…

One of the questions I am most often asked when people book an appointment is “what should I do in the meantime?”

In other words, they have a few hours, or maybe even a day or two, until they get into the clinic and they (quite rightly) want to get started on their recovery as soon as possible.  Or even just help a little with some of the pain.

Well, here are my golden rules for back pain – in particular, back pain that has only recently come on.  Some of them may seem a little strange, but I can tell you from firsthand experience they really do work.

  1. Keep Moving. The golden rule when it comes to most injuries is to keep it moving. This doesn’t mean you spend your entire time wandering around, it means wander around for 5 mins, then sit down for a few minutes, then try and bend forward, then walk around some more, then sit down, the try and ease backward, then walk…you get the picture.  Vary what  you are doing in as many ways as possible.  The only exception to this is twisting – don’t do it.  Or anything like lawn mowing, vacuuming and sweeping, which involves a twisting movement.
  2. 2. I Instinctively, we want to put something warm and comforting on whatever hurts. In pretty much every case of sudden onset back pain this is the WRONG thing to do. There is bound to be inflammation in the area, so you are going to be a hundred times better off putting a bag of peas on it than a hot water bottle.  5 mins of an ice packed, wrapped in a towel to protect your skin, then 10 mins with it off to allow the blood to circulate back to the area.  And repeat.
  3. Ibuprofen. See above – ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory, and we need to get that swelling under control. Check with your pharmacist or GP that you are OK to take this medication if you are unsure, then follow the guidelines on the packet or that your GP gives you.
  4. Keep Moving. Ok, already put this one in, but just thought I’d remind you how important it is! Do everything you would normally do with your day (as long as there’s no twisting involved) and you will reap the rewards. Not only does it help psychologically if you are getting on with things rather than focussing on your back pain, but it will keep things more supple and less painful.  Of course, if you start to do something and find it’s making things worse, stop.  But unless that happens, get on with your life!
  5. Book an appointment. I started this article by saying usually I get asked by people who have already booked in what they do in the meantime, but if you are reading this and wondering if you need to see a Chiropractor, then the answer is yes. Even if the pain goes away, the function may not be fully restored, risking it happening again in the future. Even if the function does restore as well as the pain going away, this happened for a reason and a Chiropractor will be able to tell you how to avoid it happening in the future.