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The dos and don’ts when dealing with back pain

Apr 4, 2017

Does a long day in the office leave you with a sore back? Maybe it’s just a few hours of yard work that has your back feeling stiff.

Whether you know the cause of back pain or not, you’re not alone. Back and neck pain affects 80 to 85 percent of the adult population. Causes range from a trauma, such as a fall or car accident, to poor posture to repetitive motion to weak muscles.

“With just normal daily activity even people that don’t have a history of problems with their back are going to end up at some point or not experiencing back pain,” says Angela Thomas, Director of Outpatient Rehabilitation. “Even normal tissue experiences pain.”

The anatomy of the back involves many pieces and parts because your back is built for strength, durability and movement. The spinal cord has 62 major nerve branches. The spinal cord column consists of 24 vertebrae, and there are 23 discs in the spine. Everything is interconnected by 70 joints and 2,000 muscles.

That is a lot of body parts that are subject to pain.

The good news is that even though you are most likely to experience back pain in your lifetime, 95 to 97 percent of cases get better within four to six weeks with conservative treatment alone. If it’s lower back pain you are suffering from, less than 15 percent of cases last longer than two weeks. And even more good news, only two percent of people with back pain will need surgery.

The key is to make sure you are properly treating not ignoring the problem. Most people with back pain can self treat the pain or select physical therapy as an option.

Here are the Dos and Don’ts when dealing with back pain:

DO apply ice to the painful area

DO lie flat on your back with feet propped over stool/pillows

DO lie on your stomach on a firm surface four times a day

DO use good posture

DO take over the counter meds

DO exercise regularly and stretch your back before and after gardening, washing the car, etc.

DO see your family doctor or seek a referral to see a physical therapist if not better in 7-10 days

DON’T bed rest more than three days

DON’T stay in one position longer than 30-60 minutes

DON’T sit slouched

DON’T lift/bend excessively

DON’T sleep on a soft surface

If your back pain lingers more than 7 to 10 days, you may want to seek the help of a physical therapist. Six of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s outpatient rehabilitation centers can help patients find the root of their back pain. Click here to find the one nearest to you. A physician’s referral is required to see a physical therapist.

“Physical therapists are extremely good at figuring out what is going on if you can’t figure out what is causing the problem,” Thomas says. “We put you in one position; we put you in multiple positions; we stretch different things that might not have been stretched in a long time. We work to figure out what’s wrong and treat you so that you can treat yourself.”

How can we help you?