Of the 80% of Americans who will experience back pain at some point in their lives, most people will have acute lower back pain. This type of back pain lasts only a short time and can be treated simply at home. It is often caused by an isolated incident, such as lifting, being in an accident or moving in a way that is unusual for you.
When the back undergoes acute trauma, its muscles endure several small tears. These tears often heal within two to three days, but the process can be painful. Part of the pain is due not so much to the tears themselves as to the inflammatory process that takes place to remove damaged tissue from the scene.
The side of inflammation we are more familiar with is its painfulness. The rushing of fluids to the area creates swelling. When it comes to acute muscle injuries, the body’s defenses tend to overreact. Since no infection is generally present in a torn muscle and the tissue is not seriously damaged, we can help to reduce the pain we feel by reducing the amount of inflammation that is present.
The first thing that should be done for injury-related acute lower back pain is to apply ice. Ice constricts blood vessels and can reduce the influx of inflammatory fluids to injured areas. Apply ice for 10 minutes, then remove long enough for your skin to return to a normal temperature. You can do this several times a day. After three days, heat may be used to help fresh blood flow to the area and loosen up stiff muscles.
Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen both work to decrease inflammation in the body. If you wish to avoid pills, you can treat food as medicine to naturally reduce inflammation. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be purchased in root or powder form. Tumeric is a spice that fights inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to fight inflammation and can be found in wild seafood, fish oils, walnuts and flax seeds. Vitamins E, B, D and C have also shown abilities to reduce inflammation.
Avoiding foods high in sugars, dairy and trans fats may help to reduce the amount of inflammation you experience.
It is important to consider that some inflammation will help you heal faster. An article at EmaxHealth.com summarizes a study published in FASEB Journal that found a substance within inflammatory cells that speeds up muscle repair. You don’t want to kill all of the inflammation present during recovery, then. This means that some pain is to be tolerated if you want the fastest recovery.
Rest (A Little)
Taking it easy for a couple of days after an acute injury will prevent exacerbation of the injury. After two days or so, however, it is important to get moving again. Muscles grow stiff after even a short period of inactivity and will need fresh blood and stretching to function properly. The more muscle mass you lose, the longer it will take to get strong again. Rest for no more than two days, and then gradually work yourself up to a normal level of activity.
Acute injuries to the back can be dealt with swiftly and simply. Remember the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) mantra, but also keep in mind its limitations. Rest briefly and ice only enough to reduce excess inflammation. Every body is different; if you have an overactive immune system, more ice should be used than on someone with a low inflammatory response. You can be the judge of your own treatment options as long as you are informed.