How to Manage Your Chronic Pain at Home
By Rizwan Khan, D.O.
There are many reasons for chronic back pain. Sometimes, because the pain has prolonged over time and has affected the area for so long, it is hard to properly address it without seeking medical attention. Usually, chronic pain comes as a response to an injury incurred or from a structural problem at birth, i.e. from a disease like scoliosis.
If the pain derives from an injury, a simple sprain or strain from overexertion could run you the risk of chronic pain; or from something more distressing, like a fall or a motor vehicle accident. You could also develop chronic pain from arthritis in the small joints along the spine.
Others may be suffering from degenerative disc problems, such as: degenerative disc disease or herniated discs. Discs serve as shock absorbers; so these conditions usually occur when the disc(s) tears or flattens due to an injury playing sports or exercising. It is common to see some form of degenerative disk disorder in most people over the age of 60; yet not everyone that age will necessarily suffer from chronic back pain.
Another degenerative disease that can cause severe back pain is spinal stenosis, or pinching of the spinal cord. Stenosis can cause serious and prolonged problems rather than just pain in your lower back. You could get sciatica, where the pain travels down to your legs and hips; and you feel numbness or weakness down your lower back to your feet. If it gets worse stenosis can lead to paralysis.
All these varied reasons are why it is so important to regularly tend to your back pain through at home remedies and personal management. Managing your pain can help you avoid complete immobility, potential paralysis, and pain in other parts of your body.
How do you manage chronic pain at home?
There are several things that can be done to help you manage your pain. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to stay active. Staying in bed all day or sitting at your desk at work will make the pain worsen or spread to other parts of your body. I suggest taking regular breaks during the day to move around, even if it is to get up and stretch. You can also do activities such as yoga, pilates, tai chi, and other low impact exercises to help with your pain.
To reduce inflation, I recommend eating non-inflammatory foods, or sticking to a non-inflammatory diet. You can also take medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), i.e. ibuprofen or Alive. They have no contraindications and they perform better than taking acetaminophen or aspirin, because they tackle both the inflammation and pain, rather than just the latter. You can also use topical creams containing menthol, camphor, or lidocaine, as it will activate the cold sensing nerves, and make the local area go numb.
You also have the option of applying heat and ice to the area. Heat can soothe the local area, while cold can tackle the inflammation as well. Alternate between both to get the most relief.
Are there more holistic remedies available?
Holistic remedies can help your chronic back pain, such as certain vitamins or acupuncture. You can also try some topical cbd creams, though cbd is still highly unregulated and it is sometimes difficult to know what you are getting in each product.
You can also try deep tissue massages, if it helps; but, be sure you know who you are going to so they do not cause further injury to your back, or to the other areas you may be experiencing pain in. If you would like to explore more holistic remedies, it is always best to check with your doctor first before trying anything new. The last thing you would want to do is cause more damage.
When should I see my doctor for my chronic pain?
Chronic pain can unfortunately lead to worse issues in the body. See your doctor even if you have been managing your pain for longer than a week, and it has not improved or it has worsened. Your doctor can run x-rays and due further testing to preclude the pain spreading to other parts of your body, where you didn’t experience that pain before. Especially, if you are feeling any numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain down your buttocks or legs, see your doctor. This could indicate that your back pain has advanced into sciatica.
It is also good to see your doctor immediately after you injure yourself, either at the gym, at a labor intensive job, as a result of a fall, or a serious accident. They can support your recovery through rehab, surgery, medication, out-patient procedures and prevent further or prolonged injury in the future.
Chronic pain isn’t usually caused by tumors, infections, or even kidney stones, but it can be. If you are suffering, or think you might be suffering from any of these, you will want to see a doctor. Especially, if you are experiencing fever, rapid or unexplained weight loss, bowel or bladder problems, or any other unexplained, seemingly unrelated symptoms. Also, if you see any swelling, redness, or sores on your back; contact your physician.