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How to get chronic pain to back off

The challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and lockdown restrictions have led to a lack of physical activity that has made people more at risk of spine pain and disability.

With Disability Rights Awareness Month celebrated in South Africa from 3 November to 3 December, Vuk’uzenzele highlights the importance of taking care of your back.

Almost everyone has lower back pain at some point in their lives. The lower back, which starts below the ribcage, is called the lumbar region. Pain in this area can be intense and is one of the top causes of missed work.

Fortunately, lower back pain often gets better on its own. When it doesn’t, there are effective treatments, such as staying active and taking painkillers. However, some people will need medical treatment, such as manual therapy, massage, mobilisation or spinal manipulation.

Back pain symptoms

Back pain can have various symptoms, including:

  • A dull aching sensation in the lower back.
  • A stabbing or shooting pain that can travel to the leg and foot.
  • Not being able to stand up straight without pain.
  • A decreased range of motion and less ability to flex the back.

The symptoms of back pain, if due to strain or misuse, are usually short-lived, but can last for days or weeks. Back pain is chronic when symptoms have been present for longer than three months. It’s then advisable to see a doctor or visit your closest clinic.

Tips to ease the pain

Lifestyle changes can help you to manage and prevent lower back pain. Having a healthy lifestyle may make you less likely to suffer an accidental injury too.

The six tips below can help ease back pain and prevent back pain in the first place.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps build strength and control body weight.
  • Diet: Make sure your diet includes enough calcium and vitamin D, as these are needed for bone health. A healthy diet also helps to control body weight.
  • Lift heavy objects the right way: Be sure to squat when lifting heavy objects, so that your hips and knees do most of the work. Keep the load close to your chest when you lift.
  • Bed: You should have a mattress that keeps your spine straight and supports the weight of your shoulders and butt.
  • Stretch often: Doing the same thing every day can tire your muscles, which makes them easier to strain. Stretch regularly to help improve circulation in those muscles and lower the risk of back pain and damage.
  • Improve your posture: Poor posture can put unnecessary pressure and strain on your spine. Over time, this can lead to pain and damage. A good chair for working should have good back support, arm rests and a swivel base.