If you are experiencing constant back ache and not ready to seek professional help, this article is for you.
There are tons of content online to help people relieve back pain. My job here is to help you make sense of those content. It’s not so much what to do but how to do it.
First thing first, you can’t beat good, evidence-based professional help. If you have seen a chiropractor or physiotherapist previously but didn’t get the results you were after, it could be just because they weren’t very good.
That doesn’t mean chiropractic care or physiotherapy doesn’t work!
When you are ready to seek professional help again, look out for an evidence-based allied health provider.
Home Remedies For Chronic Back Pain
When it comes to “home remedy”, most people are probably familiar with ice pack. It’s common to read advice asking you to apply ice to your joint pain. Especially if your back symptoms are related to sports injuries.
However, there’s no research to suggest that cold pack reduces back pain. In short, icing is just broscience.
On the other hand, heat pack comes highly recommended by both The Lancet and The Journal of the American Medical Association clinical guidelines.
A heat pack has to give out physical heat so the Salonpas and Tiger Balm deep heat or pain patches don’t count.
Salonpas pain relief patch contains an active ingredient methyl salicylate. This is the compound that gives the “icy hot” – deep heat or minty – sensation that is often associated with Salonpas patches.
Other ingredients include camphor and menthol.
While most people consider Salonpas to be a topical analgesics for muscle strain, or aches and pains, research supporting its efficacy is lacking.
Tiger Balm pain relieving patches contain the same main ingredients as Salonpas. However, the methyl salicylate and camphor amount is double of what you get in Salonpas.
If you have sensitive skin and have decided to go with either products for your muscle and joint ache, do be mindful of possible allergic reactions.
When it comes to heat pack, the microwavable ones are probably the most convenient for daily use. You can either get them in a gel-pack form or a fabric heat pack with wheat or beans inside.
In my opinion, the wheat-filled heat packs are best for heat retention. They do have a toasty smell though. So if you prefer something that is scent-free go for the gel-option.
For those with the budget for more expensive options, you may also consider an electric heating pad or infrared heat lamp.
You’d probably want to apply heat at intervals of 20 minutes at a time, with a 10-minute break in between applications. Do use a towel between the heat pack and your skin to prevent irritation or burns.
Drugs and medications
If you do go to the neighourhood medical doctor for back pain, it’s likely they will prescribe you with muscle relaxants and paracetamol.
You should be aware that most clinical guidelines recommend NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for lower back pain. Both muscle relaxants and paracetamol are drugs that did not meet the recommendation for most clinical guidelines.
You could request to be prescribed with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. In severe back pain cases, your GP may put you on arcoxia.
As for those who are considering self-medication, both ibuprofen and naproxen are available over-the-counter at the pharmacy.
Do note that NSAIDs are known for their gastrointestinal side effects. If you have a history of “heart burn” or any form of gastric pain, you should seek medical advice before taking them.
Do not stay in bed!
You’d be disappointed to know that complete rest is WORSE for your back pain.
While it’s true that most people do feel better with some form of reduced activity, bed rest is a bad idea.
Virtually all medical guidelines and healthcare experts agree you should keep moving. Resting in bed is likely to make your pain worse.
There are lots of physical therapists and chiropractors who are sharing their back pain exercise content on Instagram. You should definitely check out @dr.jacob.harden and @dr.caleb.burgess for some ideas.
Pain management includes the non-physical bits
The unique solutions-based approach at Square One Active Recovery means I don’t just focus on the exercises or the physical aspects of your back pain.
For me, getting you better is not just about you getting fitter or stronger.
It’s about looking at who you are as a person, what are your goals, and how we can get you there.
Quite often this include working on other areas of your life such as work stress, sleep quality, or even just a mindset shift from “my back will always hurt” to “my back pain is temporary”.
In healthcare, we talk about a biopsychosocial approach. That is that your chronic pain situation has a physical, biological component, a psychological or cognitive component (daily mood, self-efficacy, etc), and also a social component (support network).
So, I highly encourage for you to examine your own symptom experience beyond the physical aspect.
- How’s your sleep?
- How are the relationships with your colleagues or family going?
- What are your attitudes and beliefs towards your own back condition?
- Do you see yourself getting better?
- Do you have a fear of movement or fear of pain that is limiting you from performing day to day activities?
What’s your mindset?
Carol Dweck is a Stanford psychologist. She’s best known for her research in motivation and why people succeed.
According to her, there are two major mindsets people can adopt – the fixed and the growth mindsets.
To a extremely large extend, this applies to you. If you are looking to succeed curing your lower back pain, you should also look into developing a growth mindset.
Developing a growth mindset is a learning process. Its premise is based on that abilities can be developed and qualities can be carved.
You work through the situation with the belief that you can come regardless of the hand you’re dealt. From each opportunity or setback, you learn and grow, and in doing so you cultivate, through your own efforts, a growth mindset.
The fixed mindset mindset, on the other hand, is that belief that you cannot charge. Whatever you are born with become the fixed traits you have in life. Essentially, fixed mindset individuals believe their fate is carved in stone.
How to develop a mindset suitable for “curing” back pain?
The first order of business is to accept and reject.
You have to accept your back pain. You accept that your chronic pain experience is real and it is a part of you.
Once you are able to do that, you reject the notation that there’s nothing you can do about your pain.
In your day to day experience, take small steps to cultivate a growth mindset. When your back starts to feel tight or sore as you sit at your desk, tell yourself you can take action now to take control of your symptoms.
Use the heat pack. Do a short two-minute exercises to get the back moving.
Sure, your back ache may not completely subside. However, what is more important here is that you manage to take action. You are telling yourself that there are things you can do about your symptoms.
This matters too.
In conclusion, staying active is the best physical approach to “curing” your own back pain. For ideas of what exercises or movements you can do, check out Instagram!
Because other non-physical factors also contribute to your pain experience, it’s important to keep a positive, can-do mindset.
When it comes to Salonpas and Tiger Balm, both are known to be comfort items. While you may feel better after using them, the latest clinical guidelines did not include them in their recommendations. For pain relief, a hot pack that gives out actual heat is the preferred option.
If you have been experimenting with all of the above and you are still not getting the desired results, book in an appointment and let me help you.
Discover the difference the right care can make.
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Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.
Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.
*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.