Back pain is nothing new to a large percentage of the population. With eight out of ten people experiencing some kind of spine problem at some point in their lives, you may already have your own coping mechanisms, or may be in the midst of treatment for a problem that’s been with you for a while.
But if you’ve just hurt your back for the first time and aren’t sure of what to do, this new experience can be overwhelming (and probably makes you appreciate what your friends or family members have been complaining about all of these years.)
You may just have a muscle strain or may have a more serious problem such as a herniated disc. The symptoms of a herniated disc are different from those you get with a pulled muscle: you may have shooting pains running down your leg or arm, or may find that you’re having spasms or a sense of weakness when you sit or stand.
The pain of a herniated disc can come on suddenly, and the first couple of days are usually the worst. If you’re having these types of symptoms, the first thing you should do is to call our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey to set up an appointment to come in and see our physician for a diagnosis and medical treatment. We will likely start you on a course of conservative treatment to see if that helps.
In the meantime, while you wait to see us, here are some things you can do at home to help provide some relief.
Over-the-counter pain medications
Medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and they can help a lot. Follow the dosing instructions on the package, paying careful attention to any drug interaction warnings, and when you come into our office make sure that you tell us what you have taken and whether or not it helped.
Though many people hate the idea of being cold, using ice in the first couple of days after an injury can make a real difference in your level of pain. The cold that is making you uncomfortable will eliminate a lot of the inflammation, and will help you heal faster because it makes your veins contract. Once you take ice away, the veins relax and the blood rushes back to the iced area, fixing damaged tissue faster.
If you have somebody who can help you, the best ice treatment is an ice massage, which can be done easily by freezing a paper cup of ice and then tearing the sides away to allow your helper to hold onto remaining paper and circle your inflamed area with the exposed ice. If that option is not available, use a cold compress or ice pack.
Just as ice in the first two days constricts veins and then allows blood flow back to the injured area, heat in the days after help ease muscle spasms and can dilate blood vessels. It also cuts pain signals within your nervous system.
Hopefully, these home therapies will help you get through the pain in the first few days. If you get no relief and the pain does not abate, make sure that you contact our New Jersey lumbar spine specialist to set up an appointment.