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WHEN THE PAIN STARTS TO GO

Most episodes of acute back pain grow less severe within two or three days, when the sufferer can start to get up and about again. On the first day this should be for only a couple of hours at a time, with spells of rest in between, increasing gradually on succeeding days, within the painfree range of movement. If a muscle has been torn, healing may take 10 days or more.

Getting dressed may be difficult, especially putting on socks, shoes, pantihose and trousers, and it may be wisest to stay in dressing gown and slippers for the first day or so you are up. If you feel that you must get dressed, wear whatever is easiest to put on. A woman can choose a dress rather than trousers, and leave off pantihose. Slip-on shoes are preferable to lace-ups. A long-handled shoe horn can be a help.

If you must put on pantihose or trousers, put them on while lying on your back with your knees bent; but do not raise your hips to pull them right up, which could arch your spine – get off the bed and then do the pulling-up.

There is a gentle exercise that is worth trying when you are feeling less sore. If the pain is in the lower back, while standing put the palms of your hands on your hips, on the bony crests on either side of the pelvis, and holding it steady, sway your shoulders backwards beyond the level of your hips, thus extending the vertebral column. Do this slowly and gently, and stop at once if the pain increases.

If the pain is in the upper part of the back, interlock your fingers behind your head; press your elbows back in line with the shoulder joints, pulling the shoulder-blades together.

Do not drive a car, and take care, when you are a passenger, how you get into your seat. Rotation at the neck or waist may bring the pain on again. Get in slowly, preferably by standing with your back to the seat, then sitting down with your legs outside, and then slowly swivelling round while lifting your legs in, with your hands behind the thigh.

Until you are completely fit again, do your best to avoid lifting and carrying heavy weights. If you really must carry things – essential shopping, for instance, divide the load equally in two, one bag in each hand. Or you could try a back pack, which someone else would have to put on for you. Above all, make sure not to repeat the movement which brought on the attack, if you know which one it was; and in general, avoid twisting and bending movements.

Remember: bend at the knees not at the back.

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