3 Ways to Help Prevent Low Back Pain
Having new or acute back pain can be worrisome. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the condition will require expensive tests to diagnose or be difficult to treat, according to Jennifer Caudle, DO, an assistant professor of family medicine at the Rowan University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.
“The severity of pain is not always related to the seriousness of the injury,” says Dr. Caudle. “The key to effective treatment lies in accurate identification of the cause of the back pain.”
Focusing on preventive care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. They are trained to listen and partner with you to help you not only get healthy, but stay well.
3 Ways to Avoid Common Pain Culprits
For many people, back pain can be traced to a single overuse incident, such as:
- A new or more intense workout.
- Lifting a heavy object.
- Sitting for longer than normal, which can strain muscles and compress vertebrae.
Here are three ways you can help prevent non-specific low back pain from overuse injuries:
- Don’t overtrain when exercising. The old adage “no pain, no gain” is simply not true – despite what your boot camp instructor might say. It’s best to build up your strength and endurance in a methodical, efficient manner.
- Practice proper lifting techniques. Shoveling snow or simply lifting a box can easily lead to strained muscles. Lift from your legs and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Sit less. Long hours seated at work or traveling can incite back pain. Try not to sit for more than an hour at a time and take one minute each hour to stretch a different part of your body.
There are more serious causes of back pain, however, which is why a proper diagnosis by your doctor is important.
Dr. Caudle urges her patients to start with over-the-counter medication and home treatment for relief while waiting for an evaluation from their doctor. Non-specific low back pain caused by overuse injuries can often be treated with exercise, ice and over- the-counter medications.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), practiced exclusively by DOs, is an option clinically proven to provide drug-free pain relief for low back pain. Your physician may be able to refer you to an OMT provider.
“One of the unique differentiators of osteopathic medicine is osteopathic manipulative treatment, which is proven to be effective in treating low back pain. Clinical studies have shown OMT to be an effective alternative or complement to medication and other therapies,” says Dr. Caudle.
Opioids, a highly addictive class of pain medication, are not appropriate for many back pain patients, Dr. Caudle notes. Soft tissue injuries tend to respond well to treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers, she adds.
Time is an effective remedy for treating pain, with most people resuming their usual activities within three to six weeks.
If you experience pain that lasts longer than three months, it is important to see your physician to discuss a treatment plan.
“Pain impacts a patient’s mind and spirit, as well as their body. When we can’t eliminate all the pain, it’s important to help patients maintain function and quality of life by partnering with them to find the best solutions for their situation,” Dr. Caudle says.