If you have injured your back there are a few things you can do to help speed up your recovery and to keep you more comfortable at the moment. The following are just guidelines and there is no substitute for seeking medical advice as soon as possible from either your GP or your Osteopath.
Even though it is sore try to keep your back gently moving so that you don’t stiffen up too much. Intersperse periods of rest with gentle movement such as a short walk round the block or down the garden. Lots of little walks are better than one long one; try to get up and move every half an hour or so.
Use an Ice Pack
A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, or a wheat bag that has been in the freezer are both good. Special gel packs are available at most pharmacies and can be kept in the freezer for emergencies. Make sure there is always a layer of material between your skin and the ice pack to avoid the risk of freezer burn. Place the ice over the painful area for a maximum of ten minutes, repeat this every hour whenever possible.
Avoid heat and heat rubs, they usually feel good at the time but may aggravate any inflammation that is present and you will often feel worse afterwards.
Many people will find they are uncomfortable at night and stiff first thing in the morning. If the problem is low back pain, putting a pillow between your knees when lying on your side can help. Make sure the pillow supports all the way down to your ankles. If you sleep lying on your back try a pillow under your knees or keep them bent up to avoid strain into the low back.
Whenever you are resting make yourself as comfortable as possible. Use lots of pillows to support you so you can really relax, this is important as it gives your muscles a rest and helps them to heal.
Poorly set up work stations can be a major contributing factor to musculo-skeletal problems. Many companies employ erganomics advisors who will come and look at your work station and suggest alterations to provide you with the safest possible working position. Here are some simple things you can do for yourself;
- Make sure your monitor is directly in front of you and that the centre of the screen is roughly at eye level.
- Your key pad should be at a height that allows you to rest your arms comfortably on the desk with support for your whole forearm; keep your wrists slightly bent so your fingers fall naturally onto the keys.
- A good office chair is important to allow you to maintain a relaxed and balanced posture. It should have good low back support and fit under your desk so you don’t end up slumping forward to reach your mouse or key pad.
Too much sitting is not natural for an organism designed to move; getting up and moving around every half hour or so will help your body cope.
Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water; avoid excess tea or coffee as these contain caffeine which will dehydrate you.
Patients often ask me for advice on improving their posture. I have found that the best way to think about being upright is to work on standing/sitting tall and relaxed. Imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head, about an inch back from the centre. This string is being held by a puppeteer in the ceiling and they are exerting a gentle upward pull. Allow your shoulders to drop naturally back and your chin to relax. Keep your abdominal muscles gently contracted and stretch up through your spine. Keep everything as relaxed as possible; if you find that you forget and catch yourself slumping don’t worry, just sit up again and after a time you will find it becomes more natural.