First Aid for Back Pain
I have now been practising as an osteopath for over 25 years, having previously qualified as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. My main interest was in neurology, so after qualifying I chose to work on a neurosurgical ward, gaining experience in patients undergoing spinal surgery.
I was later introduced to osteopathy, following a back injury and concluded that that was a far better option than the knife! My aim ever since has been to encourage others to avoid the debilitating effects of back pain, with good advice and the right treatment.
One of the benefits of exercising is that it can help to avoid back pain. However, what do you do if you already have back pain?
Dealing with Acute or Chronic Pain
Pain can be categorised as acute or chronic, acute being of recent onset and chronic being longer term. The most important thing is to address the acute pain before it becomes chronic. Most people make the mistake of thinking the pain will go away and by the time they seek help, it has often become chronic and is then much more difficult to resolve.
With the right action on the first sign of back pain, you can greatly increase your recovery. The most important thing to do is to continue your normal activities. Although very tempting, resting can result in increased stiffness and prolong your recovery. Take some simple painkillers (paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen) to control your pain (if in doubt on which painkiller, take advice from your GP or local pharmacist) – it is far better to reduce the pain so that you can remain active.
Generally, painkillers will not cover the pain to the extent that you will injure yourself further. You can apply some hot/cold therapy. If you feel the pain is muscular in origin then apply heat, if inflammatory try a cold pack. However, it may be a matter of trial and error, to see which proves more relieving.
What do you do if the pain does not subside, after trying all the above? You could seek the help of a manual therapist, such as an osteopath. Some patients will consult their GP first, to be reassured that there is not an underlying cause for their back pain. However, that is not essential and most of our patients come direct to us (though I recommend you keep your GP informed so your records are up to date).
In a typical osteopathic consultation, a detailed history would be taken, followed by an examination to identify the cause of your pain. If we were suspicious that your back pain was not related to your back, we would refer you to your GP for further investigation. The aim of any treatment would be to relieve your pain as quickly as possible, with advice on how to avoid a recurrence of your symptoms in the future.
So, don’t become one of the many chronic back pain sufferers, take action now!