8 Steps on The Road to Recovery After a Back Injury
Back pain is the third most common reason for visits to the doctor, as research by the Mayo Clinic notes. If you’re one of the many who’ve suffered from a back injury, here are eight steps you should take along the road to recovery.
Resting is important initially after a back injury, so you might want to spend some time reading books, watching movies or TV, staying in bed for the first 24 hours or so. You don’t want to spend too much time lying on your back, however, as it can cause it to become stiff, which may slow the healing process. If you can, do some slow gentle stretches like pulling your knees to your chest while lying down. Using a heating pad or hot water bottle can help to speed healing by increasing blood flow.
Try to Avoid Prescription Meds – Use an OTC Pain Reliever Instead
While opioids were once commonly prescribed, they’re highly addictive and come with all sorts of unwanted side effects. Try an over the counter (OTC) pain reliever instead, ideally an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen as they tend to work better for back pain than acetaminophen.
Don’t Jump Into Strenuous Activities Right Away
Even after you’ve rested a day or so, it’s important not to do anything that could worsen the injury and your pain. You may need to take time off work, or ask if you can have alternate duties if your usual job consists of manual labor. Avoid sitting or standing in the same position over a prolonged period of time while recovering, and avoid any physical activities that could put your back at risk for further damage.
Perform Exercises Specific to Your Back Pain
If you’re not in severe pain, try researching exercises you can do that are specific to your back pain. For example, lower back pain may be relieved by hamstring stretches that help lessen strain on the lower back.
If after a week, you’re still in pain, you might want to try physical therapy. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral if you need one for insurance purposes as it can be an important part of treatment on the road to recovery. It may involve strengthening and stretching exercises, massage, heat and/or cold therapies.
Sometimes healing requires an “adjustment.” If your back pain still isn’t better, you might want to see a chiropractor for an assessment.
Talk to Your Doctor About Medications
If ibuprofen isn’t cutting it and you’re still in pain, talk to your doctor about prescription medications. It’s best to avoid opioids, but muscle relaxants can help, especially at bedtime if your pain is keeping you awake.
Resuming Basic Activities
Usually, within two to four weeks you can return to your basic activities, but you’ll want to pay attention to maintaining proper posture, keeping your back straight when sitting, and taking frequent breaks, moving around at least once every 30 to 60 minutes. Avoid lifting anything that weighs over 50 pounds, and when you do have to lift something heavy, be sure to lift from your knees while contracting your abdominal muscles. Don’t twist your trunk; keep your spine straight while holding the object close to your body.
Remember that it’s important to stay active. Regular exercise helps to strengthen your muscles, making it less likely that you’ll reinjure your back. It can also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight that reduces the risk of future problems as being overweight or obese is often linked to back pain.