How to Avoid Worsening Persistent Back Pain

Three Methods:Practicing Healthy Body Mechanics and HabitsAvoiding Common MistakesConsulting with Medical Professionals

Persistent back pain has a range of potential causes: an inactive lifestyle, poor posture, improper body movements, being overweight, stress, trauma or injury, and the everyday wear and tear of the aging process. While painkillers might seem like a good, quick fix, they can actually worsen the condition in the long run.[1] Practicing ergonomic body mechanics, avoiding common mistakes, and consulting with medical professionals are effective ways to avoid worsening chronic back pain.

Method 1
Practicing Healthy Body Mechanics and Habits

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    Get up and move around. Research has shown that sitting too long can not only contribute to back problems, but is bad for your health in general.[2] Don’t stay seated for long periods of time, whether at home or at a desk job. Take a few minutes to stretch and walk around at least once per hour. Unless your doctor prescribes a day or two of bedrest, don't stay in bed or lay down all day.[3]
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    Correct your sleeping position. Sleeping improperly significantly aggravates chronic back problems. Harmful positions include sleeping on your stomach and in the fetal position. It’s recommended to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest, with a pillow tucked between them. It’s best not to sleep with too many pillows under your neck.[4]
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    Make your environments at home, work, and in your car ergonomic. Set yourself up for success with ergonomic chairs, lumbar support pillows, and by positioning your computer monitor at eye level.[5] Pay attention to your posture, especially when you’re in one position for a while, like driving or sitting at a desk doing work. When seated, keep your knees a bit higher up than your hips, and while standing, keep your head up, stomach in, and shoulders pulled back.[6]
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    Stretch and exercise. Stretching and strengthening exercises are beneficial for long-term back pain. Swimming, yoga, aerobics, and other appropriate exercise regimens that include low-impact, repetitive physical movements can improve flexibility and strengthen core muscles.[7] Further, exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight or help you lose weight, which decreases stress on your back.
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    Lift with your legs. Never bend over from your waist and lift heavy objects using the muscles of your back. Rather, bend your knees, squat, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your gaze straight ahead. Hold the object as close as you can to your body. Never twist your body while you’re lifting something, and take frequent breaks when performing manual labor.[8]

Method 2
Avoiding Common Mistakes

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    Don’t plan your exercise program on your own. While exercise and regular stretching can be great for chronic back pain, it’s best to take on a regimen under the guidance of a trainer or physical therapist. He or she can make sure than your form is correct and give you repetitive motions that will target your specific needs. They can also help you determine whether stretching exercises, which reduce pain, or strengthening, which improves function and mobility, are better for your particular condition.[9]
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    Don’t push through pain. Listen to your body: if a particular motion causes pain, stop doing it. Trying to force a painful motion can damage a mechanical back problem, whether your suffering acute or chronic pain. This applies to everyday activities, doing manual labor, and exercising.[10]
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    Don’t ignore symptoms that call for medical attention. Back pain usually gets better within a few weeks, but it’s best not to simply ignore it. Know the symptoms that indicate when you should see a doctor: numbness and tingling, severe or sudden acute pain, and pain that results from trauma or injury. Pain accompanied by weakness, fever, or trouble urinating, or severe pain that lasts for more than a couple weeks is also a cause for concern.[11] See your doctor or get a referral to a spine specialist if you report any of these symptoms.[12]

Method 3
Consulting with Medical Professionals

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    See a spine specialist in addition to your general practitioner. You should ask your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, if you have severe symptoms, or before taking any medications for persistent back pain. However, spine medicine is a distinct field, and primary care physicians don’t often have much in-depth, relevant training. They can, however, refer you to a specialist who can offer a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.[13]
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    See a chiropractor. A chiropractic adjustment can realign your spine and relieve the muscle and connective tissue damage that misaligned vertebrae can cause. A chiropractor can also give you more information about your specific issues, and can "read" your spine to suggest ways to make your daily routines easier on your back. Chiropractic care can also be helpful for head and neck pain, and is the most common non-surgical alternative for both chronic and acute back pain in the United States.[14]
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    Focus on more than just MRI results. A full clinical diagnosis is preferable to relying on imaging techniques, like MRI or CT. A scan can show a healthy spine despite severe pain reported by a patient, or it can reveal a herniated disc despite the patient having no pain. Specialists have also reported that pressure from patients is a common reason they perform imaging tests in the first place: if a medical professional doesn’t suggest an MRI or other scan, don’t try to convince them otherwise.[15]
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    Report your symptoms clearly and understand your medical options. Since there is such a range of factors that contribute to chronic back pain, be sure to clearly indicate your symptoms, whether you’re on any medications, and other key details. Medical history is often the most important tool in diagnosing back pain.[16]Make sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment plan, since back pain is deeply connected to your daily lifestyle.
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    Consider surgery as a last resort. Don’t jump to surgery too quickly. Many people view spine surgery as a “quick fix,” but it’s typically recommended to stick to the non-surgical treatment for at least 4 to 6 weeks before considering surgery.[17]More, remember that exercise and physical therapy are essential components of surgical recovery anyway.

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Categories: Back and Joint Care | Pain Management and Recovery