This is a topic we have discussed to some extent in previous articles, however, the need to review some of this information is due and it is always a good time of the year to discuss again due to the upcoming holiday time. When you travel, or more importantly, when many businesses are closed for the holidays, you may find that you may be stuck to look after your acute back pain until things open up again. And with the ever changing pandemic conditions, staying close to home may be the only option.
We will begin with what is considered a reason for an emergency department visit. Please go to the ER if you have any of the following:
- loss of bowel or bladder function,
- saddle parasthesia (numbness/tingling in the groin, medial thighs or anus),
- foot drop or inability to move your arms or legs,
- areas of redness over the spine that is hot to the touch,
- lumps, bumps or deformities along your spine, or
- progressive, shock-like pain down your arms or legs with the movement of your head or neck.
To read more on specifics of a spinal emergency, please read the following. Click here. Now that you have determined that your spine pain is not an emergency, what comes next? If there has been a traumatic event, like a fall, follow the acronym of PRINCE.
- Protect the area. This may mean splinting, or wrapping with gauze if there are cuts, pillows to help prevent bending, etc..
- Rest the area by stopping the activity and diminishing the contractions of certain muscles
- Ice to diminish swelling and encourage blood flow away from the area during the first 24-72 hrs
- NSAIDS (as long as are able to take these), will also help with inflammation and pain
- Compress to encourage blood flow away from the area when there is inflammation
- Elevate to help drain the inflammation/swelling
This category of injuries may still need some imaging if the potential for a fracture is there but these would be considered stable fractures (compression fracture of a vertebrae or a pars fracture) and are not an emergency in the sense that you will not harm yourself if these injuries are not addressed immediately.
If you don’t fall into the category of a traumatic event, you likely fall into the category of non-traumatic musculoskeletal pain. These occur as a result of a sudden muscle contraction or an overuse injury. Perhaps you were bracing to hold a heavy object while maneuvering up a winding staircase or walking your dog and the dog turns quickly and pulls you around. Maybe you don’t have pain right away, but the next morning there may be a lot of muscle soreness. How do we treat these muscle aches and pains at home?
The following is a list of recommendations to try while caring for yourself or others and their musculoskeletal pain at home.
- Rest the area. Definitely don’t volunteer to help our neighbour carry heavy patio stones into their backyard. You don’t have to have bed rest, but decrease your activities to give the injured area time to heal.
- Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Our bodies heal a great deal while we are resting and this will help with our mental recovery as well.
- Use ice for pain, 15min ON, 30min OFF and repeat 3x. Use heat for a feeling of tightness or stiffness to help loosen tight muscles.
- As chiropractors, we do not prescribe medication, however, we can recommend over-the- counter medications like Tylenol or Advil for pain and inflammation. Robaxacet contains a pain relieving medication with a muscle relaxant that may help with pain due to muscle spasms. A pharmacist is an excellent resource for you and can give you contraindications to other meds you may be taking.
- Make sure that you are maintaining adequate hydration and electrolyte intake. Muscles need calcium and magnesium to contract properly and nerves and many cellular pathways require sodium and potassium to function properly.
- Use a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your slide to prevent excessive pelvic twisting which will cause rotation in your spine.
- Pillow height for your neck during side sleeping should be the same as the distance from the base of your neck to the edge of your shoulder. Lying on your side, your neck should form a straight line continuous with the rest of your spine.
- If you need to lift anything, invest in a back belt. This will provide support for your spine by acting like your core muscles.
- Exercise to your capabilities. If you can walk with little or no pain, then walk. Refrain from doing excessive exercise or activities that will aggravate your current condition.
- Work on core strengthening exercises. Repetitive crunches or flexion is not recommended for acute low back pain and in many cases of acute neck pain. However, you can and should practice contracting your core muscles lying on your back without lifting your head. You want to create the “plank” contraction while lying on your back. If you are unsure how to do this, try lifting your head as in a sit up or crunch while feeling the muscles in your abdomen. As you shorten the muscles of your core, your ribs move towards your pelvis. This is an abdominal or “core” contraction. Now try doing this without lifting your head. Try doing 3 sets of 10 contractions.
- Try doing some stretches. To stretch the muscles of your spine, you basically want to form a “c shape” with your spine. In your neck region, bring your chin to your chest. The mid thoracic area, give yourself a hug while dropping your head. For your low back, lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Keep in mind that with muscle injuries, stretching isn’t a great thing right after an injury to muscle as we don’t want to pull muscle fibres apart (as in a strain).
- Try using a foam roller or lacrosse ball and roll out the muscles around the injured area. The ball works really well for the smaller muscles along your spine. Simply lay on the floor with the ball at the area of the injury. Gently roll the muscle until you find a tight area, then hold for 10 sec. Move on to the next area of the muscle and repeat. Remember to use caution as you can injure yourself rolling. Definitely stop if you experience any numbness or tingling.
- Gently work on the range of motion of the injured joint or area. The joints of the spine move within 6 ranges of motion. These are flexion, extension, rotation bilaterally, and lateral flexion bilaterally.
Rest assured that your healthcare provider will be grateful that you took the time to help decrease your pain, possibly even making their job a little easier. If you or anyone you know is experiencing spinal pain, please set up an appointment with us at MMD Chiropractic Health Centre. BOOK NOW. If you are experiencing any symptoms during a closure, we are available via email or even an emergency phone call maybe needed to help you with some at home remedies. Emergency communication can be made to Dr. Marnie D’Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.