Among the most common complaints that are treated in Chiropractic practice are acute low back and neck pain. These are often idiopathic (which means no specific cause) and in the short term can be disabling and painful.
When this pain hits it will greatly reduce mobility and make the simplest tasks such as shoulder checking or putting on socks incredibly difficult. The management of these acute episodes of pain has greatly changed over the last 10-15 years. Gone (hopefully) are the days of recommending bed rest, immobility and ice as the only interventions. It has been shown that this sort of advice will delay recovery and increase pain and dysfunction.
When suffering with acute pain there are several things that a person can do to help manage the pain in order to get through the day:
1. Stay relatively active: This is particularly true with low back pain. The longer you lay around in bed or on couch, the longer the pain will typically persist. If there are no clinical contraindications, I advise my patients to stay active through walking or swimming etc. While this may be a little painful to start, generally as the body warms up, you will regain some mobility and associated pain relief.
2. Avoid static positions: I’m talking to you salespeople and desk workers. Sitting down for a four hour drive or logging a full day in front of the computer is a recipe for disaster. I always recommend frequent micro-breaks in order to prevent long term immobility.
3. Heat instead of Ice: Without any specific mechanism of injury such as a lifting, twisting movement or a whiplash situation there is no reason to ice. And even with those, most of the time people tend to do better by applying short bouts of a heat pack or hot shower to help maintain movement and control pain.
4. Choice of anti-inflammatories: Many people are intolerant to products such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen due to abdominal or liver problems. There are alternatives that have been shown to very effective for pain control and act in an anti-inflammatory way. Tumeric and Bromelain (which are often combined) are very safe to take, affordable and in some studies rate more highly in effectiveness and patient satisfaction when compared to ibuprofen.
When to get checked
If the pain and disability has not substantially improved after 2-3 days it is a good idea to get checked by a qualified Chiropractor. Chiropractors are able to very accurately assess, diagnose and provide treatment options to patients which can safely and quickly relieve pain. Through a consultation, a Chiropractor will also be able to help you discover what sort of movements you should be doing more of and what ones are best to be avoided in the short term. Most importantly, with a thorough clinical exam, Chiropractors are able to identify red flags that reveal a complaint of pain if something more than strained muscles or a stuck joint.