Reducing back pain

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We all know the rule; lift with your knees, not your back. Despite our best efforts however back strain can happen. Perhaps it’s not even a case of lifting something, but a repetitive motion, like twisting. Or a fall on an icy road or sidewalk, or overdoing it with your New Years resolution for firmer abs.
Whatever the case, back pain can put a major kink in what little plans you might have during the COVID-19 pandemic.  With rest and time the pain can get better, however Alberta Health Services has a few tips as well to help get you on your feet with less pain.

When you first feel back pain, try these steps:

  • Walk. Take a short walk (10 to 20 minutes) on a level surface (no slopes, hills, or stairs) every two to three hours. Walk only distances you can manage without pain, especially leg pain.
  • Relax. Find a comfortable position for rest. Some people are comfortable on the floor or a medium-firm bed with a small pillow under their head and another under their knees. Some people prefer to lie on their side with a pillow between their knees. Don’t stay in one position for too long.
  • Try heat or ice. Try using a heating pad on a low or medium setting, or take a warm shower, for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours. Or you can buy single-use heat wraps that last up to 8 hours. You can also try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every two to three hours. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin towel. You may also want to try switching between heat and cold.

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Other suggestions:

  • Stretch and exercise. Exercises that increase flexibility may relieve your pain and make it easier for your muscles to keep your spine in a good, neutral position. And don’t forget to keep walking.
  • Do self-massage. Try self-massage to unwind after work or school or to energize yourself in the morning. You can easily massage your feet, hands, or neck. Self-massage works best if you are in comfortable clothes and are sitting or lying in a comfortable position. Use oil or lotion to massage bare skin.
  • Reduce stress. Back pain can lead to a vicious circle: Distress about the pain tenses the muscles in your back, which, in turn, causes more pain. Learn how to relax your mind and your muscles to lower your stress.

Pain still got you down? Try giving the AHS Rehabilitation Advice Line a call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-833-379-0563.

The free service is available for Albertans 18-years-old and up that live with pain, decreased mobility and reduced endurance or strength related to health condition. The line is also available to community care providers looking for ways to help patients.

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