Sunday, September 25, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
25 years ago when I was at the age of 14 the adrenaline junkie in me was always working overtime to get my next adrenaline high and one of my favorite rushes came from riding my bike down this steep hill and trying to see how fast and how far I could go without losing control of my bike.
My bike was a state of the art (at the time) 10 speed, baby blue and very fast. I'd have to walk the bike to the very top of this road that had a slight curve where it started to level off and there I would look down and inspect my home town and the traffic that I was soon to challenge. I would mount the bike and twist its front end around pointing it down the road and down the hill I would go. Every time I ran this course I would peddle faster and faster. I remember it all just like I had gone down it yesterday, the wind rushing by me and the street racing under me.
The only problem was I had to get through five intersections before I was out of danger. You see the best part of this is that... I had to dodge cars at the same time (you didn't think this was going to be easy did you) as I was speeding down this street and through busy intersections.
On this one day and my last trip down this hill I almost made it through all of them like I had many times before. I came up to the two lane street the busiest of the five and number four on my trip down and I knew I couldn't make it way to much traffic now. I pulled back on the brakes as hard as I could, at first the brakes slowed me quickly then all of the sudden... nothing... it was like I was sliding on ice. So I attempted to turn with the traffic rather then run right into it, this would have worked had it not been for timing, a second faster or a second slower it wouldn't have been a problem. On this day I ran right into a moving car, actually both of us hit each other, but it is and was my entire fault. I still remember hitting the ground but nothing else until the ambulance got there. I was out like a light. A slight concussion and twisted mangled lower back.... You bet... it did one hell of a number on me.
Well this is both a good thing and a bad. I became involved in weight training because of this and believe it or not the only time my back ever bothered me after that was when I wasn't training and the same holds true today. Don't get me wrong, I've re-injured my back several times and most all them was while I was getting my adrenaline fix, but I always bounce back. Because of this I've got an edge on most people when it comes to knowing how to heal up and get back on my feet. So hence the article below. Just some tips on back injuries.
PREVENTIVE AND HEALING STRATEGIES & TIPS
What you can do to prevent back pain and injuries and, if you do sustain them, what can be done to promote the healing process? Though the focus here is on what can be done on an individual basis, it must always be remembered that there is no replacement for consultation with a qualified physician. 80 percent of the adult population suffers from back pain at some point in their lives, so, whether it’s you of somebody you care for, it is useful to have some techniques at hand for treating it.
The good news about back pain is that is usually goes away on its own over time. The vast majority of it comes from simply straining muscles and joints at levels they are not designed to withstand, which leads into the first recommendation:
Slow Down. In most cases a few days worth of reducing the normal load you put on your back in enough. A strained back muscle may cramp or “freeze,” which causes acute discomfort. Given time to mend, however, the muscle will began to relax and the body’s natural healing processes will commence.
Over-The-Counter-Medications. In response to an injury a body part may become inflamed, which you will know by the signs of swelling, pain, warmth, and redness. To achieve a measure of pain relief and assist the healing process you can buy over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is another alternative. Though not an anti-inflammatory drug, it does treat pain effectively and is easier on the stomach.
A) Ice and Heat. During the first 48 hours after a back injury ice slows down the swelling process and acts to reduce the pain. After 48 hours, however, it loses these abilities. This is when your switch to heat, as in the form of a heating pad. This increases the blood flow to recovering tissue and relaxes the muscles.
B) Massage. Be it done by a friend or family member with a nice touch or a professional, a massage can relax strained muscles and, just as importantly, a strained psyche that is causing back muscles to tense up.
C) Keep Moving. When we are hurt instinct tells us to lay low and keep movement to a minimum. Indeed, the traditional approach to treating back pain used to tell us exactly that. More recent studies, however, have shown that careful movement does a better job of promoting recovery than remaining still. Much can be accomplished with simple exercises – provided you have consulted with a specialist who can dispense advice and instructions on what is best for you.
D) Change Your Routine. Though movement can help in the recovery from a back injury, it is also important during this period to avoid things that result in putting too much stress, be it physical or psychological, on your healing back. Whether it is in improving your posture in a chair, not lifting heavy objects, or avoiding things that cause you aggravation, adapt your daily routine to the requirements of your recovering back. Otherwise, there is a pronounced risk of re-injury, a longer than necessary recovery period, or an injury that does not heal properly and is vulnerable to further damage.
E) Pain Management. For persistent or long lasting pain, refer to the chapter on chronic pain for additional strategies.
The Simple Things
An encouraging thing about back pain is that so much of it can be avoided by simple cautionary measures, usually, in fact, by making slight modifications to things we do every day.
When standing upright, your chest should be forward, your head up, shoulders straight, and your weight even distributed between your feet with your hips tucked in. If you have to remain standing for long periods, avoid remaining in the same position for the entire time. Be sure to move around and change positions regularly. Another good idea is to rest one foot on a stool, curb, etc. then switch to the other foot after a few minutes.
If your work requires you to perform tasks on a platform or desk make sure to adjust it to a height that is comfortable for you. Spending day after day hunched over while on your feet is almost a sure recipe for back problems.
In today’s work world many of us have jobs that involve spending most of our time in a seated position. The rule of thumb here is to sit for as little as possible, and even then for only short periods of time. Since this is not always possible, be sure to get up and walk around frequently. Even a short stroll across a room will help.
When in a seated position for long periods, sit with a support positioned in the curve of your back. Nothing fancy, even a firm pillow or a rolled up towel will do the trick. At the same time, keep your hips and knees at right angles. If your chair is too high for this, either replace the chair or get a stool to rest your feet on. Otherwise keep both feet on the floor and do not cross your legs.
The chair you use should be firm and have a high back and arm rests. The problems with soft chairs or couches in that the curve in your back is not supported and it can come to be in a rounded position, which causes the kind of muscle and joint stress that leads to problems.
When seated in a chair in front of a desk, make sure the different pieces of furniture complement each other so that you can sit up straight as you work, with your elbows and arms on your chair or desk and your shoulders relaxed. Hunching or leaning over should be avoided.
Finally, when getting out of a chair after sitting for a period of time, be sure to stand up by straightening your legs, not bending at the waist. Once in a standing position stretch your back by doing a series of simple back bends.
Much of the same applies when driving in a seated position. Support the curve of your back and be sure your seat is positioned close enough to the wheel so that your knees can bend and your feet reach the pedals without having to stretch for them.
The simplest thing to do is avoid lifting heavy objects, or those whose size or shape make them awkward to move. Since lifting cannot always be avoided, be sure not to lift with your back. When grasping a object to be lifted have it close to your body with your feet spread shoulder width apart and planted firmly on the ground. Use your leg muscles to do the actual lifting, with the simplest means of doing this being to start with your legs bent so that you merely need to straighten your knees.
Once you have lifted the object, keep it in front of you and move with small, slow steps. Instead of twisting, change direction with your entire body coordinated together for the move. When the object is set down, once again keep it close to your body and let your legs do the work. Remember, the muscles in your legs are a lot bigger and stronger than those in the lower back.
Many a back injury can be prevented by following an exercise program that keeps the muscles strong and flexible. When designing your own, do so with the aid of your physician, physical therapist, or a qualified trainer.
Invest in a firm mattress and box spring that supports your body without sagging. It is best to sleep in a position where the curve in your back can be supported. Lying on one’s stomach on a soft mattress is exactly the wrong thing to do for your back.
The sleeping method recommended by many experts in on your back with three sources of support for your body: one below your lower back that is fitted to the curve there, one below your knees that supports them enough to take strain off the lower back, and a pillow below your neck that, like the lower back support, conforms to the natural curve found there and provides support.
Here are some other helpful healing strategies and tips for back pain relief. Try one or more to see how they work in with your lifestyle.
Control your breathing slow and steady for a few minutes. Focus on rhythmic, controlled breathing, holding inhaled breaths in for about three seconds, then exhale and repeat to help redirect focus from back pain and allow the body to naturally respond on its own. Repeat as needed throughout the say to help the body relax.
Some helpful suggestions are:
Choose a comfortable position that takes the strain off your back and is least painful for you. Some suggestions are:
A. On your back with your knees up, rest your lower legs over the coach or a chair.
B. Lie in a fetal position on your side and place a pillow between your knees.
When possible for back relief, rest for a couple of days. Find a couple of your most comfortable breathing positions above and alternatively use them throughout the day. From time to time, every hour to couple hours or so, include these into your routine:
A. Get up and move around a little, walking and arching your back a little.
B. Add some light stretching activities like gently pulling knees, one at a time, to your chest.
C. Light water / pool activity or aqua therapy
D. Light stationary bike riding or sitting in a comfortable chair for brief periods.
Check with your local drug store pharmacist to see which pain medications are available over-the-counter (OTC). Popular to use are aspirin for overall pain relief, ibuprofen for a combination anti-inflammatory and pain relief response like in the Advil, and acetaminophen products like Tylenol. When selecting the type of medication, keep in mind that liquid gel types absorb fasted into your system. However, regardless of your choice, do follow the directions on the labels, unless otherwise directed by your physician, and follow the recommended dosage guidelines.
Check with your local pharmacist and health store to see which liniments and ointments are available. Some popular items on the market are BENGAY, Tiger Balm and Sportscreme; generally products with a form of rubbing alcohol listed in the ingredients.
Ask about the availability of other back pain remedies including herbal treatments. Some health food stores stock packaged herbal tablets, teas and other products. Be aware, though, that most often these alternative products are not thoroughly tested as OTC products are, nor can the contents be assured for safety, quality and potency.
Here are some other back pain relief strategies for you.
1. Place an ice pack on the pain area up to three times a day for about 12 minutes per session during the first two days of the onset of your pain.
2. Moist heat applied to the pain after one day can help sooth your body. A warm washcloth or a heating pad for about 30 minutes should do the trick.
3. After the first day or two, interchange your ice and heat solutions. Heat is for mornings and before physical activity. Ice is for after activities, and in the evening.
4. As your back pain decreases, gradually increase your activity.
Help yourself to some additional information with our resources for help with back pain relief.
Back RX, Vijay Vad, M.D. and Hilary Hinzmann, Penguin Group (
Chronic Pain, The Complete Guide, Arthur C. Klein, Carroll & Graf Publications, Inc.,
The Complete Doctor’s Healthy Back Bible, Reed, Kendall-Reed, Ford and Gregory, Robert Rose Inc (publishing),
The Pain-Free Back, Harris H. McIlwain, M.D. and Debra Fulghum Bruce, Ph.D., Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2004.
Understanding Chronic Pain, Angela J. Koestler, Ph.D. and Ann Myers, M.D., University Press of
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Sin Diseases (NIAMS)
9000 Rockville Pike
Spondylitis Association of