Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.

 

Rest can make back pain worse

 

By Hari Dass Khalsa, DC

 

Have you ever had back pain? About 80% of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain hurts a lot, but it’s not usually serious, and you shouldn’t panic. Fewer than 1% of cases are caused by serious disease, but back pain is the second leading cause of missed work after the common cold.

Low-back pain can have many causes, including muscle strain, torn ligaments, a damaged disc, poor posture, excess weight, or mental stress that leads to muscle tension. Your back is especially susceptible to injury from everyday events, like lifting improperly, because it bears more weight than any other part of your body.

When low back pain strikes, get moving.

Getting up each morning can be agonizing when you’re suffering from back pain, so you may be tempted to stay in bed until the pain subsides. Years ago, back pain sufferers were prescribed bed rest, but today, doctors know activity is the key to a quicker recovery.  Not using your back can actually cause further harm.

People suffering from back pain should stay active and perform their usual activities as much as possible. Movement actually leads to faster recovery, fewer long-term problems and less time off work.  Continue your usual activities, within bearable pain limits.

Keys to getting better:

• Stay active.

• Continue usual activities and return to work as soon as possible.

• Modify activities if they cause severe pain, and use pain relief regularly.

• Avoid bed rest.

• Stay positive.

• Learn to deal with stress and learn to relax.

• Set goals to increase your activity gradually and steadily.

• Increase your fitness by walking, cycling, doing yoga, or swimming for 20 to 30 minutes 3 times a week.

 

How do you know whether your back pain will respond to self-care or whether it needs professional attention?  As a general rule, you should call your doctor if:

• the pain is intense, travels down your leg or prevents you from moving

• your leg, foot, groin or rectal area feels numb

• you have fever, nausea, vomiting, weakness or sweating

• an injury caused your pain

• your pain hasn’t decreased after one week

• you’ve had past episodes of back pain

 

Dr. Hari Dass Khalsa is a chiropractor specializing in non-surgical treatment of spinal conditions. His clinic is in the Hawthorne neighborhood. Call 503.238.1032 for information.