The Spine is a complex interweaving of muscles, ligaments, joints, discs, nerves, and cartilage. Clearly, a preventative approach would be ideal by practicing good back habits before you feel pain. But, after the pain has started, you need to know what to do to regain as much movement as possible and to help prevent further injury.
Your doctor may prescribe conservative forms of treatment for you.
He or she may recommend self-care measures such as resting, applying ice or heat, or taking medication.
In addition, your doctor may suggest you see a physical therapist who can teach you ways to care for your back or neck.
Goals of Conservative Care
- Patients assume responsibility for their own back or neck care.
- Patients gain knowledge of first aid techniques for treating back or neck pain and use of medication.
- Patients gain a basic understanding of spinal anatomy and physiology as related to their spinal condition.
- Patients gain an understanding of spinal stabilization and how to maintain a neutral position or a position of comfort for all functional activities.
- Patients independently and routinely perform exercises that enhance and improve their strength, flexibility, and endurance.
One form of self care is exercise, which is critical in rehabilitating your back or neck. It can help you relax muscles and prevent stiffness. Stretching and strengthening help your muscles to increase their ability to absorb shock and strain, and to decrease the tendency to spasm. You will need to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. A physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or athletic trainer can also provide expert assistance.
As your muscles become stronger and more flexible, your chance of sustaining another injury lessens. If the stress in your life settles in your back, strong and flexible muscles will be better able to endure potential spasms from tension.
Heat can be applied in different ways. Hot towels or heating pads applied directly to the pain site or hot baths can increase blood flow and soothe tensed and spasming muscles. Moist heat generally penetrates more deeply. Microwavable hot packs are available, allowing for convenience and quicker application. Popular heat-generating devices are the hands. Massage can be an excellent way to warm and relax a tight muscle by stimulating increased blood flow to the area. But, if you or your massage therapist press too firmly on a muscle that is in spasm, the spasm can get worse. You should try a hot bath or heating pad first to relax the area in spasm.
Cold can also be beneficial for back or neck pain, especially if your condition has been determined to include inflammation. Many people have found that ice seems to “numb” the painful area, providing at least temporary relief. Gel packs are available that can be frozen or heated, depending on what feels best to you. Some gel packs are made to freeze to a consistency like gelatin so that the pack can conform to the body. For some people, lightly rubbing the painful area with an ice block until numbness occurs is more effective than a cold pack because of the more intense stimulation
Source: Prairie Spine and Pain Institute, Dr. Richard A. Kube II, MD.