Back Care Basics

Back pain can strike a person at any time. The good news is, most of acute backache attacks resolve without much fuss. However, it is only sensible that each of us should know the first aid measures to soothe the aching back. The most common cause of a back pain is strained muscles or sprained ligaments. Several things could lead to that: improper lifting, a sudden, strenuous physical effort, an accident, injury or fall, lack of muscle tone, excess weight especially around your middle, your sleeping posture especially if you sleep on your stomach, sitting in one position a long time, poor sitting and standing postures, holding the telephone under your shoulder, carrying a heavy briefcase, purse or shoulder bag, sitting with a thick wallet in your back pocket, holding forward-bending position for a long time, and the daily stress and strain. The effect may begin to show immediately after you have strained the muscles or it is several hours before it hits you. The muscles knot up in spasm and you can feel the pain. That's your body way of signaling you to slow down and prevent further injury. If you suffer a sudden attack of acute back pain, you might consider taking following first-aid measures.

• At the first signs of back pain, just lie down. Bring in a horizontal position places the least strain on your spine. If you're at home,, slip into your bed, provided it's not too soft or uneven, If you're out, don't worry, the floor should be fine, just ask somebody to make the surface comfortable so that it's firm-not hard- and doesn't dig into your spine and ribs. If possible, let somebody spread a few rugs or blankets on the ground.
• If your muscles are in spasm it may take you while to ease yourself on to the bed or down on to the floor. Try sitting on the edge of the bed and then rolling slowly on to it, or use a support to help you get to the floor.
• There is no right or wrong way to lie. You can lie on your back, on your front or on your side whichever is the least painful. Lying in a horizontal position will help relax muscles that are in a spasm and you should find the pain slowly ease away.
• If you are lying straight on your back, you might like to place a pillow or a rolled up in the small of your back. This should make you mare comfortable. If you are lying on your side, a pillow between your knees will support the upper leg and prevent from folding over forward. Whether you are on the bed or the floor, do not prop yourself upon pillows. That will put more strain on your back and worsen pain. Get plenty of rest, but avoid prolonged bed-rest more than a day, two or three may show recovery. Moderate movement keeps your muscles strong and flexible. Avoid heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, repetitive bending or twisting.
Use a Cold pack:
• During the first 24 to 48 hours, applying a cold pack against your back may relieve the pain. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in apiece of cloth. Hold it on the sore area for 15 minutes four times a day. To avoid frostbite, never place ice directly on your skin.
• Heat Treatments Work Wonders:
After 48 hours, you may use heat to relax sore or knotted muscles. Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, an electric heating pad or a heat lamp. Spending a few minutes in a hot shower can also soothe a painful back. But be careful not to burn your skin with extreme heat. If you find that cold provides more relief than heat, you can continue using cold, or try a cold and hot combination.
A Gentle Massage:
• Ask your spouse, friend or a member of the family to give a gentle back rub. That can help to relax your muscles. Just make sure the room is warm, that you are lying on a comfortable surface, and the massage is gentle, not too vigorous. No pressure should be directly applied on your spine.
Use At-home traction:
• There is a simple way of applying traction at home to stretch the lower spine and relieve the pressure on the discs. Lie on your back on the floor, and ask a member of the family to lift your legs by the ankles, lean back slightly and gently swing your legs from side to side. This simple technique should help you if you have pain in the lower back or down the back of the leg.
Warm up:
• Gradually begin gentle stretching exercises. Avoid jerking, bouncing or any movements that increase pain or require straining. Healing will occur most quickly, if you can continue your usual activities in a gentle manner while avoiding what may have caused the pain in the first place. Avoid long periods of bed rest, which can worsen your pain and make you weaker.
The road ahead:
• Simple home remedies such as these generally suffice, and you should find that the pain has become much less acute within the next 48-72 hours. With proper care, you should notice a steady improvement. However strenuous use of a strained muscle during the next few weeks may bring back the pain. Most back pain is gone in six weeks. Sprained ligaments or severe muscle strains may take up to 12 weeks to heal.
• Once you have back pain, you're more prone to experience repeated bouts of such pain. Your best bet to keep your back pain-free relies on maintaining your flexibility and strength and keeping your abdominal muscles strong.
Lecturer, Dravyagun Department
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.