One question you can ask just about anyone about their health is ‘How’s Your Back’ because most of us have back problem at one point or another. In the USA back pain is one of the most common reasons for people to visit a doctor and one of the most common reasons for surgery. In the under 45’s it is the reason given for the most time off work. The thing about back problems is that they really get you down. Especially is they’re the kind that won’t let you sit, stand, or lie without some form of discomfort. My mother has a lot of problems and when my husband has a sore back? Well there’s really not much point in talking to him, poor soul.
Our spines are complex constructions, built from 33 vertebrae with disks between them which act as shock absorbers. They are made from cartilage (a bit like the not quite bone in your nose) and the center is a jelly like substance which dries up as we get older. Damage to any of these disks causes the disk to rub against a nerve causing anything from mild numbness to extreme pain, especially if the inner gel comes in contact with a nerve.
I first had real back pain when I was pregnant, and found two things that really helped; cushions and heat. During pregnancy hormones are running riot creating the right environment for the baby’s growth and eventual birth. Many pregnant women suffer back pain, partially because the additional weight in an odd place makes them walk differently, partially because their hormones are relaxing the ligaments and muscles in their bodies.
I know I wanted comfort, and with the belligerence pregnancy can bring, I felt entitled to demand it.
My favorite solution was a body pillow which helped me get to sleep, but for days when it was really bad I had a bath and tried to relax in the warm water, and since we found the heat helped, we bought a water bed which was wonderful.
Sadly the back pain didn’t go away once my son was born, but I was advised to try stretching my back and used an exercise ball to good effect. My mother on the other hand suffers terribly some days from pain since she fell and hurt her back a few years ago. After consulting an acupuncturist she bought a massage tool which allowed her to massage her own pressure points, something she says has given her considerable relief.
Other interesting treatments include for back pain include the use of inversion tables, where gravity is used to pull the back into alignment and relieve any pressure on the spine. Only a few minutes treatment is required on a regular basis.
The most common ‘treatment’ for back pain is no treatment at all. Doctors often prescribe painkillers or even anti-depressants. Most are agreed that the best thing to do with back pain is try to avoid it, by staying fit and flexible through the use of gentle, low impact exercise. Good advice, no doubt, but too late for most of us. Speaking personally, I still have my faithful pillow and my exercise ball, and I intend to use them.