First aid for backs
Backache is a common problem most Neplese middle age men and women are facing. We present you a few first aid for back to help you to get over the pain and the trouble.
If you've hurt your back you should keep as mobile as possible - but if the pain is bad, rest in whatever position is most comfortable - whether it be standing, lying or something more unusual! Whatever helps, try not to stay in one position for too long.
Apply heat and ice
You can try applying an ice pack to the affected area. Don't put the ice directly on your skin, as it might cause a cold burn; instead put a wet cloth between the ice and your skin.
If ice doesn't work, try applying gentle warmth, by using a hot water bottle, but cover the bottle so it isn't too hot. Some people find that alternating the heat and ice produces most relief. But do try to get professional advice on applying heat and ice if you can. A hot bath or shower might also help.
If you haven't got an ice pack, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables instead. Peas or sweetcorn are especially good because the bag can be scrunched up to fit the contours of your back. But don't apply the bag direct to the skin - cover your skin with a wet cloth.
Take painkillers as recommended on the packet - but never more than the recommended dose. Always read the instructions to make sure the tablets are suitable for you. Your local pharmacist can advise you. Many people find that paracetamol or ibuprofen helps. Painkillers should not be a long-term solution for most people. If you still need painkillers after a week or so, you should consult your doctor.
Muscle tension is bad for back pain, so try and relax as much as possible. Take a long bath, or listen to soothing music. Use a relaxation tape if you have one. A gentle massage from a partner or friend may help, but make sure they don't do anything which causes pain.
If you're stuck in bed for a day or two, use the time to consider your lifestyle, and think of ways you might avoid the back problem in future. Are you overdoing it? How can you be gentler on yourself - and your spine?
Bed rest or exercise?
Doctors used to recommend long periods of rest for people with backache. But research now shows that bed rest is bad for backs. Even crawling around on your hands and knees is better than no movement at all. Some kinds of exercise, such as walking, don't put too much stress on your back, and it's a good idea to make a start on them even if your back is a bit sore - just to get your joints moving and your heart and lungs working.
Getting back to normal
Usually, the back recovers naturally if allowed to do so and in most people the attack of back pain settles down in a couple of days. If the pain lessens try and get moving again and not stay in one position, or do any one activity for more than 30 minutes.
You should also avoid lifting, bending or twisting until the pain has gone for a few days. Refrain from returning to the activity that caused the pain for a week or so, even if you feel better and gradually build up your exercise and activities day by day.
Don't just listen to your friends and relatives - ask an expert. Talk to your doctor, or a properly qualified physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor. Or you could contact a voluntary organisation such as BackCare (formally known as the National Back Pain Association).
Personal back pain plan
Why not print out and fill in our personal back pain plan to help you keep track of your back problems? It could help you pinpoint the triggering factors and thus enable you to take better care.
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Trisha Macnair in March 2005.
First published in March 1999.