Two days ago my dog spied his adversary chippy the chipmunk and pleaded for me to let him out. Since his discovery of the fawn nesting in our neighbor’s bushes, I’ve grounded him from all independent runs in our wooded back yard. I put his leash on him and opened the door thinking the two of us would carefully walk down the back steps, he would do his business, and we would say hi to Chippy as we happily went back inside.
What was wrong with my brain? Was it sleep deprivation? Perhaps my preoccupation with the days responsibilities? Whatever caused my sudden lapse in judgement is irrelevant now. I opened the door, and my dog bolted while I was holding tight to his retractable leash.
After one step down I knew I was in trouble so I let go. Thanks to the laws of motion, I flew over the remaining 3 steps and hit the ground with a thump. I was sure I broke bones and would be forced to lay there helpless, at the mercy of our evil garter snakes and my dog’s sloppy wet kisses. It was 7:15 am – my husband out of town and my three teen boys lay sound asleep two stories up, door shut, fan on, and a good chance noise canceling headphones were still attached to their ears.
If I couldn’t move I was doomed.
Surprisingly the only injury I seemed to suffer was wounded pride and a knee abrasion. That was then. It took a day for my body to reveal the extent of the damage. Now, I write to you from my couch where I lie supine, ice on my lower back and pillows strategically placed for optimal comfort. It was not just my pride and knee that were hurt, but I messed up my back as well. Back pain sucks, but it is as common as vanilla ice cream. 85% of us will experience it at some time. The problem with back pain is if it isn’t handled properly when it happens, it can result in over treatment, unnecessary diagnostic testing/referrals/surgeries, and can begin a spiral down into crippling disability and even opiate addiction.
The Don’ts of Back Pain:
- Don’t ignore it – Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Most back pain is mechanical, meaning it is from injuries such as the one I described, or its the result of poor body mechanics with lifting. It is always a good idea to see your provider to have your back pain evaluated and so you can receive proper instruction on how to mend. Your provider will also assess for red flags.
- Don’t baby it – The worst thing for back pain is bed rest. Give yourself 48 hours of limited motion, applications of ice, and Over-the-Counter pain relief, and then start rehabilitating through careful positioning, movements, and strengthening exercises. Avoid heat as it may feel good at first but can delay healing.
- Don’t overmedicate it: No you don’t need narcotics. I have many people in the addiction clinic that started on Oxycodone for their back pain. Back pain can be adequately managed with Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, and tylenol. Use creative pain relief interventions such as trigger point massage, cold packs, gentle whirlpools, and distraction. According to U.S. Pharmacist.com:
The use of opioids for managing low back pain remains controversial. Opioids are the agents of choice for managing severe acute pain and chronic pain associated with cancer.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of prevention: Prevention is the key to all back pain. Practice proper lifting techniques. Strengthen your core muscles. Recognize potential fall hazards and avoid them.
- Don’t remain ignorant: learn the latest treatment and diagnostic guidelines for back pain management. You are doing yourself potential harm if you don’t know the difference between good care vs quack care. Millions of dollars are spent on unneeded surgeries and overzealous practitioners who take advantage of your mechanical back pain and pad their pockets with your money.
An ounce of prevention is worth way more than a pound of cure when it comes to your back. So stand up straight, be smart (don’t use retractable leashes), and be safe. If you treat your back right, you’ll be waltzing on your 95th birthday.