Of the 80% of Americans who will experience back pain at some point in their lives, most people will have acute 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 inflammatory response is the body’s immediate reaction to a change in biochemistry. The cells of the body communicate with each other, exchanging information that is meant facilitate homeostasis. When a tissue is damaged or an infection is present, the body senses danger. In an effort to prevent the damage from spreading and to allow for efficient healing, blood vessels in the damaged muscle are dilated and an influx of white blood cells, proteins and fluids are delivered via blood. These essentially barricade the area and break down damaged tissue.
The first thing that should be done for injury-related muscle 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. Turmeric 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)
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.