When your back is hurting, you'd do just about anything to make it stop. Find out what you can do to treat episodes of back pain—and help prevent them in the first place.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is good for general health, and the back and spine are no exceptions. After all, your intervertebral discs are mostly made up of water. Skip the cola, though. Over time, it can lead to lower bone mass density.
- Alternate heat and ice. Cold therapy is the go-to treatment for the first 24 to 72 hours after an episode of back pain. After that, heat is often advised. If your back pain is chronic, try alternating heat and ice to see if you may benefit from the best of both.
- Make sleep a priority. A lack of sleep can aggravate pain. If your pain is keeping you awake, discuss pain relief and insomnia treatments with your doctor.
- Be open-minded about pain relief. It's easy to get discouraged when pain treatments don't work, but don't become so jaded that you dismiss a potentially helpful type of pain relief out of hand. There's no harm in trying out a water therapy class or a mind-body approach, such as mental imagery or deep breathing exercises.
- Don't just sit there. Moving around keeps the blood flowing, reducing stiffness. If you're sitting at a desk most of the day, try to slip outside for a quick walk over your lunch break—or climb some stairs. Getting up and standing or stretching every 30 minutes or so will also help you stay more flexible.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine and tobacco have a damaging effect on many parts of the body, including the back, and can jeopardize bone healing. Quitting is crucial for people having spine fusion surgery, since nicotine use can thwart the crucial fusion process afterward. Stopping smoking before having a spinal fusion boosts your chances for success.