Back pain and related symptoms rank among the second most frequent medical complaints, as one in four adults report dealing with back pain on a regular basis. Even though this pain is only considered chronic if it lasts for three months or more, it can still come and go in waves, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration. Dealing with back pain can be especially trying if you don’t know the cause, but whatever the medical condition behind it, there are still a number of effective strategies for coping with chronic back pain.
Reducing stress and negative feelings
Negative feelings such as depression, anxiety, anger and stress, can increase your body’s sensitivity to pain. However, by learning to take control of those feelings, you may find some relief from chronic back pain. From listening to soothing and calming music that lifts your spirits to trying out methods such as progressive muscle relaxation, there are many techniques that can help you reduce those negative feelings, promote relaxation and make living with chronic back pain easier and much more bearable.
Alternatively, you could try methods such as mental imagery relaxation (or guided imagery), a form of mental escape that involves creating peaceful and calming images in your mind, helping you de-stress and feel more relaxed.
Deep breathing and meditation exercises
Some techniques that help your body relax and eventually ease your pain include meditation and deep breathing exercises, as they release the tension and tightness from your muscles, helping them to loosen up. Although there are many ways to meditate, the soothing power of repetition, concentrated breathing and a clear mind causes your body to relax completely. While you can learn how to meditate on your own, it is always advisable to take a professional class.
Deep breathing is another relaxation technique you could easily do on your own. Simply find a quiet location and a comfortable body position, and block out all of your thoughts. Imagine a spot just below your navel and breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, and then slowly let it all out.
Managing pain with regular exercise
Apart from helping your body release endorphins, brain chemicals that improve your mood while simultaneously blocking pain signals, regular exercise has another pain-reducing effect – it strengthens the muscles, thus preventing additional injury and further back pain. But while daily exercise is crucial for managing chronic pain, it is advisable to stick with less strenuous physical activity, such as walking, jogging and swimming, and always avoid tasks that require bending, twisting, pushing, pulling or lifting heavy objects.
Bear in mind that you will need to be careful about the types of physical activity you engage in if you have certain spinal conditions, so make sure to consult your doctor about the best exercise routine for you.
Contacting a medical professional
There are several back pain symptoms that require a visit to the doctor, including pain that goes down past your knee and numbness in your leg, foot, groin or rectal area. Fever, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, weakness and sweating are also significant warning signs. If you lose control over your bladder or your bowels, you may even need urgent evaluation. Or, if several weeks have passed and the pain you experience isn’t improving, it’s time to seek help from a professional, such as Dr Timothy Steel, an experienced spine surgeon and an expert in his field.
Opting for over-the-counter medication
Pain relief may even be as close as your medicine cabinet, as many anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can help reduce back pain. If none of those options help relieve your pain, your doctor might decide to prescribe a variety of non-narcotic muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medicines. Most health providers avoid prescribing opioid or narcotic painkillers for routine back pain, as they can often lead to addiction and more serious health problems.
Considering spinal surgery
Even though more than 95 percent of cases of chronic back pain can be managed and treated using the abovementioned methods, some patients, such as those with significant spinal cord or nerve root compression, and weakness or severe pain in the arms and legs, might need to consider surgery in order to get the pressure off of the nerves. While doctors usually tend to try their best to treat patients non-operatively, surgery is sometimes the only way to properly manage back pain. Although the idea of going under the knife may seem intimidating, with today’s technologies and doctors’ expertise, you are guaranteed to have a positive experience that will result in a pain-free life.
Living with chronic back pain day after day can be extremely difficult and challenging. However, if you consult a medical professional regularly, take proper care of your mental, as well as physical health, and even find your own coping mechanisms, you will find that living with back pain is more than manageable.