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Self-Care Solutions for Neck & Back Pain
Living with chronic neck and back pain can certainly be difficult. Every bend, twist, or turn of the head becomes a constant reminder that something isn’t right.
If you are dealing with chronic pain, then you want the quickest, easiest solution to find relief. Fortunately, there are some time-honored approaches that allow for powerful symptom relief. In addition, even simple changes to your lifestyle can play a major role in helping you feel better.
Let’s take a look at some of the common ways you can relieve your neck and back pain.
The Big Three
Treatment for just about every neck and back condition starts with three trusted, conservative techniques. While these may not be the “magic bullet” for every condition, recruiting these techniques can, at the very least, provide temporary relief.
- Resting the area: If you suffer from a muscle strain in the back or neck, it may be a good idea to rest the area for a few days. This allows the muscles to relax and unbind. Try to limit your activity and refrain from participating in heavy exertion. Don’t make this an excuse to spend weeks on the couch, however. Too much rest may actually make the problem worse.
- Ice and heat: Generally speaking, it is best to use ice application for the first couple of days after an injury. Doing so reduces swelling and inflammation. Cold can also act as a local anesthetic. After those couple of days, switch over to a heating pad. Heat increases the blood flow to soft tissues and relaxes the muscles.
- Over-the-counter medications: Injuries to the back and neck often result in swelling, inflammation, redness, and tenderness. Some pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) block the actions of specific enzymes that trigger the inflammatory response. This reduces pain and soreness associated with common conditions like tendonitis, arthritis, or muscle/joint injuries. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any new drug to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your current medications or health conditions.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Your personal habits may be contributing to your neck and back pain. By making some adjustments to your lifestyle, you can prevent further injury, slow the pace of progressive conditions, and feel better overall. Consider some of these lifestyle changes:
You are probably well aware of the damage that tobacco smoke wreaks on your heart and lungs. However, smoking can also affect other areas of the body. Toxins found in cigarettes—like nicotine—can compromise bone health and contribute to conditions like degenerative disc disease.
Eat a healthy diet
The food you eat nourishes your body. When you choose whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals, it accelerates the body’s innate healing process and maintains bone health. In addition, avoiding processed and junk foods can decrease inflammation in the body. Diets rich in magnesium—found in beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—may also alleviate muscle strains and sprains.
Improve your posture
Our constant slouching over mobile devices is not doing anything to help the neck muscles. If you can’t avoid using technology for long stretches, then try modifying your posture. For example, hold your phone in front of your face instead of looking down at it. Ensure that your workstation allows you to look straight at a monitor. Posture modification could be as simple as spending a few mindful moments as you sit, stand, or walk. Becoming more aware of your posture sets the framework for better habits.
Without a doubt, exercise is great medicine. Aerobic exercise can also aid with weight loss. After all, excess weight puts more pressure on your back and joints. Stretching and strengthening exercises keep the muscles in your back and neck flexible and less prone to injury. Even simple exercises like walking or moving around in a warm pool can be beneficial.
Chronic stress can be brutal on the body. Among other things, stress weakens the immune system and tightens muscles. Activities like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation allow you to manage stress and gives those tense muscles a much-needed break. If you find it difficult to handle your stress alone, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may work. A psychotherapist can help you understand how negative thought patterns are contributing to your daily stress.
Getting the right amount of quality sleep does wonders for your physical and mental health. According to a Harvard Health article, those who reported moderate to severe sleep problems were at a greater risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal pain. This could be because sleep disturbances disrupt the body’s natural healing processes and muscle relaxation. Create a routine that limits stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime. Exercising and getting a handle on your stress can also make falling and staying asleep easier.
Get Some Help from Professionals
Some holistic therapies can be especially helpful for your chronic neck and back pain. If other methods haven’t proven effective, you may want to consider enlisting professionals who have an intimate understanding of pain and how to manage it. This can include:
A specially trained massage therapist uses a variety of techniques to relieve chronic neck and back pain. The rubbing, stroking, and kneading movements of massage can reduce muscle tension and inflammation. Massage also increases blood flow to affected areas to promote healing. While a massage from a friend or loved one can be nice, a licensed massage therapist has a deeper understanding of human anatomy, painful musculoskeletal conditions, and how to effectively relieve pain.
Your pain could be caused by a misalignment of the spine. Specifically, chiropractors readjust the bones in the spine and neck. This can vary from manual manipulation to using special adjustment devices. Chiropractic care often proves beneficial for those with acute back or neck pain not caused by a serious underlying problem like a herniated disc or compression fracture.
This practice, rooted in Eastern culture, involves inserting thin needles into specific areas of the body depending on your symptoms. Using these needles is thought to correct imbalances in the body’s energy system—sometimes referred to as “qi”. While just the thought of inserting needles may make some people squeamish, the procedure is relatively painless when performed by a licensed acupuncturist. Plenty of research suggests that acupuncture is, at the very least, an effective pain management therapy.
Physical therapists use a variety of approaches to reduce painful symptoms. They also provide suggestions to prevent further recurrences, urging you to pay better attention to your body mechanics. Physical therapy uses manual manipulation, exercise routines, passive modalities, and patient education as a holistic approach to treating painful musculoskeletal conditions.
If you aren’t sure what is causing your neck and back pain, a visit to an orthopedic doctor can give you life-changing answers to your questions. Orthopedic doctors can accurately diagnose the cause of your pain and suggest the most effective treatment options based on your specific condition. Instead of blindly trying the vast number of pain remedies available, you can be guided with an individualized treatment plan designed to save money, time, and, of course, countless hours of pain.
If conservative treatments don’t seem to help, minimally invasive spine surgery may be the next step. While the idea of going “under the knife” may be intimidating, new technology allows surgeons to treat several back and neck conditions using only a small incision. This means less blood loss and damage to surrounding tissue. As a result, you can get back to your normal life faster and with less postoperative pain.
Ready to Take Control of Your Neck and Back Pain?
You don’t have to accept pain as part of your everyday life. Our dedicated team at New York City Spine Surgery, PLLC, will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine the source of your pain. Then, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your lifestyle and individual needs. In many cases, we can find effective treatments without using surgery. If surgery is required, however, we use innovative technologies to ensure a successful procedure and quicker recovery times. Let New York City Spine Surgery help you get your life back. Schedule a consultation today!
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