All of us have experienced backache sometime or the other. It could occur at the end of a tiring day, or could suddenly surface while moving something heavy. It persists on some days, while at times it just disappears. A backache can be a signal from the body to take care before it is too late, and becomes excruciatingly painful and problematic.
People experience backache at various points on their back. It varies in symptoms like intensity, duration, triggering and relieving factors, and needs to be managed accordingly. It could be due to exertion, bad posture or as complex a cause as a renal condition.
Here is a list of causative factors, which could be avoided to prevent backaches at all times and places:
- Bad posture i.e. sitting in a wrong position for long or sitting, bending, standing for many hours. Your posture should be changed. Taking a break of five minutes in between helps.
- Wearing high-heeled shoes or ill-fitting footwear
- Obesity surely is a causative factor for backache and can be prevented. Maintain weight to make sure that your back is not burdened by excessive weight.
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise
- Infection, anywhere in the body
- Sleeping on an uneven surface or too soft mattresses
- Jerky movements
- Digestive disturbance, flatulence and constipation
- Osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Menstrual problems like PMS [premenstrual stress], menopausal aches or excessive bleeding, or painful menstruation.
- Smoking and other addictions.
Oil massage—when and how?
People usually start oil massages and take fomentations to relieve pain, which are helpful. But, one must be cautious not to overdo it and immediately consult a doctor if pain persists or gets worse.
Medicated oil can be prepared using any of the following or all of them—clove, garlic, asafoetida, cumin, ginger or aniseeds. These should be powdered and boiled in oil [gingili, mustard, til, coconut oil]. This massage should be washed off using hot water or herbal fomentation [papaya leaf, castor leaf or cabbage leaf can be heated and placed on painful area] to get relief.
Tip: Any of the above oils with camphor dissolved into it acts faster.
Diet and lifestyle
Eating a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is a must. Food and beverages that help relieve constipation should be preferred. Avoid eating fried food, and food that causes flatulence like peas, potatoes, and caffeinated drinks like coffee, and tea. Drinking fresh fruit juice, ginger tea, clove tea with liquorice powder or pomegranate juice, or lemon juice also helps.
Sedentary lifestyle can cause backaches. So it is advisable to start simple exercises like walking or jogging regularly before aches and pains start.
Garlic, ginger or potato paste can be smeared on a thin cloth and applied on the affected area. Garlic paste may cause some transient blisters and application of soothing oils will heal it. [If blisters do not manifest, garlic paste would be one of the best plasters to relieve pain.]
Tips to relieve pain
- Yogasanas that are beneficial for back pain are Bhujangasana, Halasana, Shavasana, Shalabhasana, and Uttanpadasana. But, remember not to over do. Also, don’t start these asanas after you develop backache. Learn yogasanas from a qualified person even if you have not got backache till now.
- Resting on firm mattress helps. Shavasan is a sure way to ease backache. Too much of bed rest may act adversely so beware of taking too many days off from work.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects if you suffer from backache and, if it cannot be avoided, do it in such a way that your back is not hurt. Bending the knees and maintaining the back straight helps ease the weight on the back.
- Bend one knee slightly and try sleeping on your back or on the side that pains more, this relieves pain.
- Start regular activities, which improve your posture and prevent or reduce activities that cause pain.
Orthopaedic advice by Dr Y B Hegde
What is your opinion about taking painkillers to relieve backache?
No one should start painkillers and that too for long term without a physician’s direction. Taking painkillers for long, itself may trigger the pain to come back. If pain is intense it is best to get a clinician check the patient first before any natural medication is tried. Backache could be due to different under lying pathologies and crucial time should not be lost trying home remedies.
Would you advice a patient suffering from backache to do yoga or simple exercises to get relief?
It is usually not advisable to start yoga when you have pain. But, if one has been doing exercises and yoga, they could restart once pain subsides and it is always necessary to do it under supervision or after getting advice from someone qualified in it. We do suggest not doing anything that might irritate the back further.
— Dr YB Hegde, Orthopaedic physician, professor and head of the department of Orthopedics at the Mysore Medical College
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