Ooh, My Aching Back!
You quickly reach for the laundry basket full of clothes and suddenly feel the stabbing, ripping feeling of pain and strain in your back. You know you are in for a miserable couple of days and are hoping your back will feel better soon! You soon realize that it's now impossible to lean over, turn easily, get out of bed, get dressed and even wipe yourself clean. What should you do? How can you help yourself not only to get better but also avoid hurting your back once again? How will you take care of yourself while you are recovering?
If you are one of those folks who have done this before, you may be prepared. For others this may be an entirely new experience. Most likely the healing will take a few days and perhaps even a few weeks. You would just prefer not to have this happen again. While each story is different, most will say that they noticed some pain and stiffness in their back for a week or two before.
Perhaps you have an event coming up or you are having company - so you ignored the early symptoms and chose to keep on going. What could you have done differently? And, what could you do now that you "did it"? Ignoring those early symptoms of back pain and discomfort might be the first wrong move.
Checking with your doctor early might lead you to a quicker road to better back health. And perhaps, checking to make sure your self-help behaviors are being followed might also be a good approach.
Is your mattress comfortable?
Are you doing stretching exercises?
Do you know what stretching exercises to do?
Do you ask for help when lifting heavy items?
Are you climbing into the tub for a warm soak?
Do you run the shower water on your back, where it hurts, and do a little stretching while shower?
Do you take a shower before you do hard work to warm up your muscles?
Do you take an anti-inflammatory medication recommended by your doctor in preparation for a day of even an hour of activity?
Do you use cold therapy for your back muscles after you do hard work?
Do you have a favorite chair that helps with your aching back?
Do you know what pain medication your doctor might recommend?
These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself and your health care team, when you first notice the symptoms. Perhaps you have been forgetting these preventive self-help behaviors.
If you have hurt your back, the issue now is how to get better without hurting your back even more in the process. Seeing your doctor is, of course, important. The doctor will want to guide you with medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications, such as acetaminophen and in some cases even muscle relaxers. You may want to ask about a back brace and how to properly use cold to reduce pain and warm moisture to hasten healing. Rest may needed until some of the intense pain is reduced and activity increased gradually. Finally, exercise under the guidance of a physical therapy to increase flexibility, strength and stamina. Throughout the recovery process, however, it may be difficult to pick things off the ground and get dressed but luckily there are some wonderful self-help gadgets that can help.
Here are some favorites:
Dressing Stick - This simple and easy to use stick is outfitted with a few different types of hooks. These allow you to maneuver and pull up underwear using the leg holes and shorts and pants using the belt loops. You can push socks or knee highs down and off your legs and feet and position shoes and slippers without bending down. It is handy on the bed to help move books, computer and covers into place for use. You will find many more uses for it than listed here. Most importantly, it extends your reach without bending and possibly reinjuring your back.
Heating Pad - Once you have discussed treatment with your doctor, chiropractor and/or physical therapist may suggest a moist heating pad. Get instructions for how to use it properly and for how long. Moist heat not only helps to heal, it also relaxes strained and tight muscles. Make sure you do not fall asleep with it on and keep the temperature on low.
Toileting Assistance - Bending to clean yourself can be difficult and sometimes impossible. The Toilet Tissue Holder is curved for reaching your private areas and with a press of a button and when wiping is completed, the soiled tissue can be released into the toilet. You might like a folding model to use when traveling.
Bed Board - Getting the right support from your bed can help with healing and help prevent further back problems. If your mattress is saggy, the use of a back board can make a huge difference. A firm mattress also helps you get out of bed more easily.
Bed Handle - A bed handle, also called a Bed Support Cane, can help you turn over in bed and get out more easily during the times that your back is hurting so much. It fits under the mattress and helps you get out of bed first by rolling to your side first and then sitting up slowly, while moving your leg over the side of the bed. Make sure you try to avoid pain, while doing this sometimes difficult maneuver.
Shoe Horn - A long handled shoe horn helps you slide your foot into your shoe or slipper without bending down.
Elastic Shoe Laces - Use these laces in your all your tie shoes. Start by tying the shoelaces in the shoes with your feet in them. Remove your feet but do not remove or untie the shoelaces. When you are ready to put your shoes on again, use the long handled shoe horn to help slip the shoe back on with ease.
Pillow - A pillow or two slipped under your knees when lying in your bed will flatten your back and help reduce pain. A special pillow called a Back Pain Wedge can be placed under your knees and lower legs. Lying down with your legs on the wedge helps your back to feel less strain and better supported by the mattress.
With a little care and time, your back should soon feel better. And by checking in with your doctor and physical therapist and remembering to continue to do your preventive self-help behaviors, you may be able to avoid back problems in the future. Before you know it you'll be feeling ready to do the things you love to do again! Good luck!!!