When Hank Hill hurt his back, the doctor essentially said he had a choice between pain pills and nothing. That’s not exactly true, which is just one reason why people should not get medical advice from cartoons. However, the millions of Americans who suffer from back pain know that the doctor’s pronouncement is not entirely untrue either.
Hank was caught in the pain pill trap. Prescription painkillers, especially in situations that involve long-term discomfort, have a number of unwanted side-effects, not the least of which is the possibility of addiction. On the other end of the scale, over-the-counter remedies, like Motrin, are often too weak to make a discernable difference, particularly with regard to back pain that also limits range of motion.
Fortunately, there are some ways to address back pain without surgery and without excessive pain pill use.
Some Common Lower Back Injuries
Muscle injuries, usually because of overuse, do not sound terribly serious or painful. But the thousands of people who go to the emergency room each year because of these issues would strongly disagree with that pronouncement. The most common overuse injuries are:
Muscle Strains: When back muscles bear too much strain, they overstretch and eventually tear, thus damaging the underlying muscle fibers.
Lumbar Sprains: The same thing can happen to the ligaments, which are the tough fibers that connect tissue to bone.
Many times, although not always, people strain their muscles after short-term overuse, like lifting too many boxes on moving day or relocating the refrigerator without a dolly or a friend. Lumbar sprains often result from chronic overuse, such as repetitive stooping or bending in the garden or at work.
The best way to treat these injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Consider incorporating one or more of these tips into your regular routine:
Strengthen Core Muscles: Cardio exercise is a good way to accomplish this objective, because in addition to strengthening muscles, it also increases blood flow. Start slow, build up regularly yet gradually, and your back will become more and more resistant to injury.
Sit Correctly: Sitting creates three times more strain on spinal disks than standing, so consider using an ergonomically correct chair at work, as well as a footrest. Most importantly, move around during the day, perhaps with a standing desk.
Lift Correctly: Back injuries can happen to anyone, not just people who are old or out of shape or whatever. Always lift with your legs and keep your chest out. A lower back brace helps immensely as well.
Lose Weight: Extra weight creates extra pressure not only on joints, but also on backs. Even a few pounds will make a noticeable difference, not only for your back but in other areas of your life as well.
Travel Smart: Lifting and sitting issues rear their ugly head during car or airplane trips. Pack light, move around during the trip, and stretch after you arrive at your destination.
The math is simple. Take care of your back, and it will take care of you. Mistreat your back, and you will literally feel the pain.