My boyfriend keeps throwing his back out, and it's so annoying! He can't move. He needs drugs. He lies around in bed all day in excruciating pain and can't go on long bike trips with me. It's not fair .
Why does everything always happen to me? (Sulk.) He's tried opiates, acupuncture, chiropractors, massage and a support belt.
Back pain, especially in the lower back, is super-common, affecting more than half the North American population at some point in our lives. It can be debilitating and is often chronic. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed, and strengthening your core can be very effective for both prevention and treatment.
What the experts say
"Mindfulness means noticing how you are responding to your pain and changing the response . Instead of saying, ÔMy back is killing me and I can't go on another moment,' which has the effect of intensifying the pain and worsening the despair, you could say, ÔWhenever my back flares up, that's how I react to it, and it's making things worse.' Sit down, take some deep breaths and focus on something else . People find that not only relieves the pain, but also the distress and despair. Back pain is something that may get better, then worse. To tell someone to learn to live with it sounds like I don't understand how painful it is, but you do need to learn to live with it.-
DR. MORTON MENUCK , psychiatrist, organizer of therapy program, Pain Management, Pain Control: A Mindfulness-Based Approach To Chronic Pain Reduction, Midland, Ontario
"Low back pain is the fourth most expensive health care ailment after heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Sometimes it can be caused by trauma, and we think there may be a genetic or developmental factor, but we don't understand what it is yet. Ergonomics may speak to some of the problems. It's a very multifactorial problem. Smokers have at least a six times higher incidence of disc disease. People who are unfit have weak trunk muscles, and that subjects their spine to more problems. Swimming is very good. So is walking . I would discourage sit-ups lying on the floor. Exercise balls are better for you -- they help keep the natural curve in your back."
MARK ERWIN , assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, U of T
"The joints and muscles of our spine need to move to stay in good condition . When they're left unused or get overworked, they tend to get aggravated. So back pain is often a function of under- or overuse, and physical conditioning will help. Regular ongoing exercise will make it more resilient. However, when your back is sore, it's not the time to begin. Be gentle with it. Ice the sore area for 10 minutes at a time , as often as needed, leaving time in between for the skin to return to room temperature. If your back is tight, lie on the floor with legs up, knees bent and lower legs supported on a bed or couch . If that eases your back, lie there for 15 minutes, but don't do it if it's painful. Once you feel better, begin an exercise program. Make sure it's gentle, regular and ongoing. Mindfulness meditation techniques have been used for centuries to help people deal with pain."
KAREN JONDEDIJK , chiropractor, Toronto "Doing stretches religiously can limit the amount of pain. For basic lower back stretching, lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest , or if that's not a possibility, do the opposite: sit in a chair and bring your head down to your feet . Drink a lot of water . If you get dehydrated, muscles tighten up and strain. When sitting, don't cross your legs . It rotates the pelvis and stretches one side more than the other. When you feel pain coming on, stretch, take precautions, drink some water.'
ASHER MAHMOOD , registered massage therapist, Healing Hands Massage Therapy, Toronto "To relieve lower back pain caused by muscular strain or stress, aromatherapy helps as an excellent complementary therapy. I recommend the following blend: 8 drops of rosemary, 8 drops of eucalyptus, 8 drops of thyme and 10 drops of lavender essential oils in 3 tablespoons of fragrance-free lotion or massage oil rubbed into the lower back.
HEATHER BOYD , aromatherapist, RoXpa Healing Arts Studio, Toronto
Ò A reiki treatment would certainly be a great complementary therapy to assist in the dispersion of knots of stress energy. Blockages of energy flow between energy centres (chakras) act just like clogged pipes, causing discomfort. The improvement would be experienced in an increased sense of relaxation and a general sense of well-being.'
JUSTIN BROWN , reiki master, RoXpa Healing Arts Studio