According to Arthritis UK, about one third of adults living in Britain are affected by back pain each year—what can we do to manage the condition?
Back pain can occur due to a variety of reasons—including muscle strain and sprains—or it may happen for no apparent reason at all. In rare circumstances, back pain may be caused by serious underlying medical conditions such as sciatica (irritation of the nerve that runs from the pelvis to the feet) or a slipped disc. If you experience chest pain, high temperature, loss of bowel control or a deformity or swelling in your back as a result of back pain, seek immediate medical attention.
While most cases of back pain tend to ease on their own over time, coping in the interim can prove to be difficult. The NHS advises that sufferers take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin to help relieve discomfort. Ibuprofen works to reduce pain and inflammation and can be bought at a low cost from supermarkets and pharmacies. If back pain persists or becomes severe, doctors may recommend stronger, analgesic medications such as codeine. Caution is advised, however: according to the NHS, codeine can cause addiction and dependency in as little as three days. Dependency on opioid painkillers like codeine may also lead to a host of other medical issues from constipation to liver and bowel disease.
While practice in mindfulness may not cure or eradicate back pain, it can aid in pain management without the use of medication. Researchers at the University of Washington and Group Health Research Institute in Washington (US) suggest that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can improve chronic back pain. The research, published in March 2016, found that patients with back pain reported improvements within six and a half months when using MBSR methods. MBSR activities include yoga and meditation.
It is imperative to keep active even with back pain; bed rest or staying sedentary may actually prolong suffering. Exercising can help to strengthen the muscles that protect the spine, release endorphins which act as a natural painkiller and improve circulation and stiffness. Along with moderate exercise (like walking), doctors recommend performing strengthening exercises such as pelvic tilts to help strengthen the lower back. To do this, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your core and gently tilt your pelvis until you reach an arch in your back and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this motion 10 to 15 times