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First Aid

PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS GENERAL ADVICE AND IS NOT MEANT TO REPLACE A PROPER CONSULTATION WITH A QUALIFIED HEALTH PRACTITIONER. FURTHERMORE, IT RELATES ONLY TO MILD TO MODERATE MUSCULOSKELETAL INJURIES. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT A PERSON SUFFERING ACUTE OR PERSISTENT BACK OR NECK SEEK ATTENTION PROMPTLY.

In relation to back or neck injuries:

HEAT OR ICE?
Whilst most people jump for the heat, it is better to apply ice to start with. The reason for this is that when you damage tissue the area may be affected by inflammation and the leaking of blood cells which increases pain and spasm. Applying ice can help reduce these effects.
The idea is to wrap an icepack or a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel and apply it to the area. The application of cold should be limited to 5-10 minutes and then repeated several times with a break of a couple of hours in between applications.
You should wait to apply heat until at least a day, preferably two, after the onset of the injury. Generally speaking, for milder injuries where the pain is not too bad then you can apply the heat sooner however for most other types (i.e., worse) it is appropriate to wait longer. Reduction of pain and increased mobility means the injury is entering the healing phase and the heat is then welcome. As with ice application, there is some science involved with applying heat: heat on the area increases local blood flow which in turn promotes healing.

SLEEPING POSITIONS
Yes, trying to sleep with back pain or neck pain can be a nightmare however here are some tips that may benefit you.
The sleeping position considered healthiest for the spine is lying on your side. This also applies to when you have injured your low back. Whether it is your injured side or uninjured side that you lie on depends on you. Sometimes it is helpful to have a pillow in between your knees.
For some, lying on your back may be preferable. This can be aided by having a pillow or two underneath your knees. This causes the knee to be slightly bent which in turn causes the low back to flatten out. This can ease pressure on inflamed joints or discs.
It is generally agreed that tummy sleeping is to be avoided particularly if you have back pain.
Neck pain can be trickier when it comes to sleeping positions. While tummy sleeping is a no-no here as well it is less clear about how to get decent shut eye when dealing with neck pain. It would seem both back and side sleeping have their benefits but this depends on good pillow support. In some instances, people find it more comfortable to have their heads a little more elevated (using two pillows) but ultimately pain determines what is most comfortable.

KEEP MOVING OR LIE DOWN?
This depends on the level of pain. It is generally recommended now that you should keep moving when you have a back injury and there is certainly a lot of sense in this. Cautiously walking around the house or getting up regularly from sitting to move around can be helpful as it can reduce muscle spasm and increase blood flow. Common positions/motions that should generally be avoided with back pain are bending, sitting or standing still for extended periods and sitting in a car.
In some instances (for example, if the pain is severe) then it may be appropriate to move very little until the worse of the pain subsides. In these circumstances, a person may be better off confined to the bed or couch (whichever is more comfortable) until the pain eases.
It is important to note, again, that the above is general advice and may not be appropriate for in all situations. See a qualified health practitioner for tailored advice and recommendations and n not let severe pain go unchecked.

MEDICATIONS
Simple analgesics such as panadol and panadeine are basic pain-killers that can be helpful in dealing with back and neck pain.
Anti-inflammatories such as voltaren rapid and nurofen can also be effective in dealing with back and neck pain. The advantage of anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) over simple analgesics is as well as helping to reduce pain they function to reduce inflammation and swelling at the site of injury. The downside of NSAIDS is that they can produce side effects. For this reason, it is recommended that those who suffer asthma or have a history of stomach problems such as ulceration do not take them.
If you have not taken either analgesics or NSAIDS previously then it is recommended you discuss them with your local pharmacist prior to doing so.

NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS
Studies have shown that supplements such as glucosamine and fish oils may have a beneficial role in the management of back pain. However, any benefit is likely to be achieved in the longer term so these products will not provide help with short term pain.