About 80 per cent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. But how can you tell if it is serious or not?

Most low back strain and sprain injuries will resolve themselves with a little help within a week or so. To determine if your injury is more serious, look for the following symptoms: pain in other body areas, numbness, and loss of strength or co-ordination are all signs to seek professional help sooner rather than later.

But back pain doesn’t have to hijack your sick days, try these tips to help yourself recover…

1. While Recovering

  • A back brace or protective belt can be helpful in the short-term period following an injury, but should be avoided in the long-term. Long-term use of back braces can promote muscle weakness. 
  • Until you recover, it’s best to set those high heels aside. High heels put excess strain on the lower back muscles, making them work harder to keep you from falling forward.
  • Do gentle stretching to the point where you feel some relief. Don’t stretch to the point where the pain is aggravated.

2. Rest vs. Staying Active

If you’re injured, you may have been told to rest until your injury has healed. However, avoiding exercise is the worst thing you can do when you are experiencing minor back pain. It is important to stay active while recovering from an injury but it is best not to exert yourself. Reduce normal physical activities but continue to be as active as possible. 

  • Change positions often and try not to sit, stand or lie in the same position for prolonged periods.
  • Resting in bed or remaining sedentary is only necessary if you’re in so much pain that you can’t move.
  • Do gentle stretching to the point where you feel some relief. Don’t stretch to the point where the pain is aggravated. 

At the end of the day, those who maintain active therapy recover quicker. Resting in bed or remaining sedentary is only necessary if you’re in so much pain that you can’t move.


3. Slipped Disc

Your spinal column is made up of 26 bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by disks. These disks protect your bones by absorbing the shocks from daily activities like walking, lifting and twisting. Injury or weakness can cause the inner portion of your disk to protrude through the outer ring. This is known as a slipped or herniated disk and can cause pain and discomfort in your lower back.

In most cases, a slipped disc will revert back to its position spontaneously but it can take four to six weeks to fully recover. You may have heard it’s best to rest your back if you have a slipped disc. However, remaining moderately active is ideal to keep muscles and ligaments warm and reduce the risk of creating more tension in your back.


4. Hot vs. Cold

Most people believe that a hot bath reduces back pain. The reality is that even though it may sound soothing, getting into a hot bath when muscles are inflamed can make matters worse, increasing the inflammatory response in an acute injury.

Use ice, not heat, to soothe the painful area. Where there is pain, there is inflammation. In the case of back injury, the inflammation may not be visible the way swelling of a sprained ankle might be.

A good rule is to remember the word inflammation includes the word “flame” because where there is heat, there is inflammation and pain. Icing cools down the heat associated with inflammation, it is better to apply ice to an injury for 15 to 20 minute intervals, during the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury.


5. Massages

When people have back pain, they often book a massage as soon as they can. The truth is, when you’re in pain, a massage may help in some cases and hurt in others, depending on the cause of the back pain.

For instance, your low back may feel tight because of a muscle spasm occurring in an unstable region. If you then massage this area, without truly assessing the source and the reason for its tightness, you can inhibit the body’s natural protection. The result will cause more instability and more pain.


6. Back Pain and Aging

No matter how many birthdays you celebrate, back pain should not become a normal part of aging.

As we age, it‘s true that we can become more susceptible to certain types of painful back conditions. However, with all of the treatment options available today, back pain does not have to be a part of the aging process.

Over a recovery period of a week or so, you should experience slow and steady improvement. While in the recovery phase, review your daily routine and consider whether your activities might be contributing to your back pain or slowing your recovery. A chiropractor or other health care professional can help you identify potential triggers.


7. Slow and Steady

Over a recovery period of a week or so, you should experience slow and steady improvement.
While in the recovery phase, take a look at your daily routine and consider whether your activities might be contributing to your back pain and slowing your recovery. A chiropractor or other health care professional can help you identify potential triggers.

For example:

  • Are you doing too much lifting, bending, or repetitive activities?
  • Are you sitting for long periods of time at home or work without changing positions?
  • If you have to carry items, are you dividing the load to prevent stress on your lower back? Carry two smaller bags, one in each hand, rather than one large bag in one hand or on your shoulder.

If you experience back pain, consult a health care professional, such as a chiropractor to assess your needs and identify a course of action that’s right for your specific condition.

To find a chiropractor near you, use the chiropractor locator on our website. In Ontario, you can visit a chiropractor without a referral from a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care professional.