I feel like every time I go over to my friend Julie's house, she's always complaining about her back hurting. And, when I ask her why, she's always like, "I don't know, Fritsch. I'm getting old." That seriously can't be the answer. Can back pain just come out of nowhere? I am always surprised to find out that she just lives with it. What's up with that? To help my friend and so many other people out there struggling from back pain, I contacted Ryan Seal, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon with The Christ Hospital Physicians – Spine Surgery.
Causes of back pain
I wanted to find out what might be causing Julie's back pain. Dr. Seal advised, "Sitting at a desk or computer for prolonged periods of time can contribute to neck and back pain. Getting up and moving hourly when possible can help with this. Tasks that involve repetitive bending and twisting can also contribute to back pain as well." This makes total sense because my friend had been working from home and had just recently gone back to work.
I did, however, want to ask Dr. Seal about certain chores around the house that might be contributing to the back pain.
Dr. Seal said, "Sadly, chores and housework are a part of life. As I mentioned, repetitive bending and twisting motions, particularly when moving or carrying heavy objects, can contribute to back pain. Maintaining a neutral posture, bending at the knees and hips, and making sure to change hands or sides when appropriate (alternate hands when vacuuming, sweeping, and scrubbing) can prevent overworking one side or the other."
A treatment plan
Now that we know what might be causing the back pain, it's time to think about the treatment. When it comes to at-home treatments that might help with back pain, there are a ton of options trending online, like foam rollers or lacrosse balls, a percussive massager, the "chirp wheel" and posture trainers. It can be difficult to know which one to choose, if any.
Dr. Seal said, "All of these devices can be safe, reasonable options to help relieve back and neck pain. They should be used, ideally, with the assistance of a therapist, personal trainer, or other trained individual—or at a minimum with instruction from a trusted source. Often, they can be helpful for neck and back issues that are not related to significant intra-spinal issues, but instead for problems related to the muscles and tissues outside the spine that are still important components of the back and neck."
In addition to trying some of these products, there are simple exercises like planks, pelvic tilts, and quadruped arm/leg raises. Stretching is important, as well—and maintaining a strong core. Hot and/or cold therapy could also help with back pain, and it really depends on the individual. One is not always better than the other, but either and/or both can be helpful. Some people may prefer one over another at all times, preference may be seasonal, but individuals should feel free to try them at any time, as they can be useful.
Often, back pain can be manageable, but it's important to know when to see an expert.
Dr. Seal noted, "When pain becomes more than a nuisance and is impacting one's quality of life, it may be time to consider seeing a specialist. If you develop severe pain radiating down the arm or leg, that can also be a signal that it is time to see a spine specialist. Other things to look out for are worsening problems with balance, dexterity, or weakness in the extremities."
Learn more about how the experts at The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine can help or find a back (spine) specialist near you.