T’is the season of back pain
Winter can be hard on your back. This month it’s carrying bundles of presents and hanging decorations. Soon it will be shoveling snow and slipping on ice. Strains aren’t limited to activities either. When the temperature drops, it’s quite common to feel an acute pain in your lower back. In fact, it’s the second most common reason to see a doctor.
Whenever it gets cold, your body has the natural instinct to tense up. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your back tighten and become less flexible. Not only will you feel pain, but you’re much more prone to injuries. Cold weather also drives everyone indoors, so you’re moving your body less, and you probably replaced your exercise routine with more eating and drinking.
What’s the best way to avoid unnecessary pain? In many cases, warmth is the key. We even shiver because the motion helps our bodies create heat. Wear the right clothing to keep you warm, stretch your muscles regularly, and stay active. Even if you’re about to do any repetitive bending and twisting, you should warm up your muscles with stretching and light lifting. Keeping limber can reduce pressure on muscle tendons and ligaments. You may also want to apply a heating pad to sensitive areas.
If you spend the warm months exercising and moving around outside, find activities you can do indoors, such as joining a gym or walking around the mall. Try your best to avoid the holiday eating and drinking binge because extra weight puts extra strain on your back.
Of course, there are times when you can’t prevent the pain because you turned awkwardly or slipped on the ice. Luckily, treatment is available. For mild pain, you can get by with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication as well as rest and light exercise.
For moderate to severe pain or pain that sticks around for a couple of weeks, it’s time to talk with a doctor. An interventional pain doctor will set you up with an appropriate patient-specific treatment plan. Diagnostic procedures can help provide immediate temporary relief, but once the specialist determines the source of the pain, there are several treatments available. Cortisone injections can supply long-term relief to specific areas of the back including the joints, vertebrae, and nerve roots.
Since there are important structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and spinal fluid nearby, a well-trained interventional pain doctor should perform any spinal injection you receive.
Whether you’re active or hibernate over the winter, take care of yourself. You never want a little problem to grow into a much larger issue.