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When you go to the dentist for a cavity, the dentist will remind you to floss and brush your teeth daily to prevent future cavities. Similarly, we strongly emphasize a daily back or neck exercise program to prevent a recurrence of back strain. That is because once a person has a back pain attack, he or she is four times as likely to have a recurrence. As a previous victim of back pain, the individual needs to work extra hard to prevent future recurrences.
A home exercise program will usually be customized for the specific back problem. These exercises can often be done on the living room rug while watching TV. Other stretching exercises can be done throughout the day to increase flexibility. The way to prevent future back or neck pain is with customized exercises that make the back stronger, more flexible and injury-resistant.
Just as a person with a heart problem needs to watch their cholesterol, diet and exercise, a person with a back problem needs to keep their back flexible and strong. When posed with a lifting task, this same person needs to use proper body mechanics, or get assistance if the object is too heavy and poses excessive risk of re-injury.
Studies maintain that exercise is more effective at treating simple back pain than bed rest and drugs. That is ironic, because when a person's back hurts, just the thought of exercise sounds painful. In truth, drugs only mask pain symptoms. Exercise, on the other hand, is like oil for the joints in the spine. In addition to improving blood flow to discs, joints and muscles, exercise makes muscles more flexible, stronger and resistant to future strain.
When you feel the onset of back or neck pain, there are a few rules of thumb to follow to help relieve the pain at home.
Ice can reduce inflammation be constricting the surrounding blood vessels, reducing blood flow and swelling. Never apply ice for longer than five minute increments, however, as the cold can freeze the skin and soft tissue. After two days, some heat can be applied to the area to increase blood flow.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Nuprin or ibuprofen have an advantage over other pain killers because they also reduce swelling. Those with allergies to ibuprofen should try Aleve, Tylenol or Aspirin to reduce pain.
If you have an attack of back pain, start taking NSAIDs for the next few days as instructed on the bottle. It is much more effective to maintain a constant level of the drug in your body than to take some medicine, let it wear off and then take another dose the next day.
Keep Bed Rest at a Minimum
When you hurt, your body is telling you to stop the activity that is causing the pain. Back or neck pain can cause almost any activity to hurt, and lying down for a few days seems like the most logical solution. However, more than two days of bed rest can cause the muscles in the back to weaken, making any activity even more painful and recovery slower. After one or two days, get up and move around. It's a good idea to take a slow walk to get moving again.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Walking around the neighborhood is a great way to help alleviate back pain. A walk helps to stretch out muscles and get blood flowing. Stiff muscles begin to relax. An alternative to walking is to walk in a pool. This alleviates pressure from the spine, joints and ligaments.
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