Is backpain a compound word? I know backache is, like toothache, but do I have to say back pain? I just want to know if I can have it as my word of the week?! Back pain has certainly dominated my week!
I’m no stranger to back pain. I have a slipped disc and a whole lot of other strange things going on which add up to something loosely termed ‘Bertolotti Syndrome’ – S.I. joints, facet joints, joints that shouldn’t even be there articulating with bits that shouldn’t articulate, sciatic pain…you get the picture! But that’s not what this is about. This is a whole different ball game!
Last week I was carefully kneeling on the floor sorting bedding and stuffing it into a bag in front of me. Not bending over from a height or anything naughty like that, you understand. But suddenly…CRUNCH…or maybe SNAP…or possibly CRACK…well you get the picture. Something had just ‘gone’ in my back. Something excruciatingly painful. I cried out, called for help, and collapsed on the floor. And that was it.
So here’s my advice on what to do when you have an acute back pain episode. Not expert advice, just borne of experience. We’re talking about sudden, severe back pain here, rather than any long-term conditions.
- Get yourself somewhere where the pain is at least more bearable and you can be made more comfortable – preferably a bed, sofa etc. Take it slowly and lean on someone/something for support. Once there, use cushions or pillows to achieve the best position.
- Get some pain relief as soon as possible. As much as possible. No prizes for being a martyr here. The more pain you are in, the quicker your muscles will go into spasm and make it ten times worse, so take whatever you can.
- Breathe! This sounds obvious, but severe pain tends to make us hold our breath, when actually breathing quite deeply will help your muscles to relax and increase the oxygen supply to them.
- Take anti-inflammatories if you can tolerate them, and preferably not on an empty stomach. Ibuprofen in the most basic of these, but if you are prescribed any NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), take them. Make sure you are not overdosing with any other medication you take. If in doubt, check with a pharmacist.
- Use some form of external heat or cold pack treatment. Opinion varies on this, some people say not to use heat, others disagree. Some advice also recommends alternating between the two. Whichever you use, do not apply it directly to the skin, but wrap it in something first. This time, I used an ice pack, one of those blue freezer packs you put in a picnic or lunch box, wrapped in a tea towel. Change it regularly. I have to say this is the best thing I did. It reduced swelling and made me quite numb so helped with pain too.
- Apply an external balm such as Ibuprofen gel etc., bearing in mind when you last took any oral ibuprofen and again reading the instructions to ensure you don’t overdose.
- Rest up as much as possible. Again no medals for bravery will be awarded. Doing too much too soon will set you back possibly several days.
- When you do move around, do it slowly and carefully, and with support initially, in order to not jerk anything or make the pain worse.
- Once you can manage to move around, then do so. Being still during the acute phase is fine, but moving around as soon as you can is also good as it keeps your circulation flowing and thus prevents blood clots, and also keeps your muscles working.
- If the pain does not ease at all, or worsens, or you develop severe bruising or other symptoms, always consult a medical professional. These are general tips and advice, and are not in any way meant to replace the opinion of an expert.
If you need further advice, see the NHS website, especially the section about back pain.
As for me, I spent some time in bed, then slowly recovered. I’m really bad at taking my own advice, so by day 3 I went on a family day trip and did a bit of walking, which was stupid, as I ended up in severe pain again! I’ve now learned my lesson and am going as slowly as my patience will allow! At least it has given me some time to catch up with a bit of blogging!
To all those who have back pain, acute or longer term chronic pain, you have my sincere sympathy. Take it easy and be kind to yourself, you don’t want to end up with longer term damage. It is frustrating, for you and for the people you live with, but take as much advice and as much help as you can get.
Wishing you all better soon!
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