Here at Lifespan, we see many patients suffering from acute pain.
The sharp, catchy, stop-you-in-your-tracks type of pain that often ‘comes out of nowhere’ and throws your plans out the window.
In fact, despite the fact that we can treat ailments from head to toe, two of the most common conditions we see are lower back and neck pain. Often these patients first come to us during an acute episode, seeking advice and treatment so they can get back to their busy lives.
For many years, advice around acute pain has involved taking anti-inflammatory medications. such as ‘Nurofen’ or ‘Voltaren’.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve recommended these to patients in acute pain many times in the past.
However, recent research has emerged suggesting that anti-inflammatory drugs may not be as effective as we had previously thought. A recent study involving 6,000 people with back pain compared non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDs”- the technical name for these well-known medications) with placebo (“dummy medicine”). NSAIDs were found to have some effect on the patient’s ability to move and complete day-to-day activities, however, this effect was too small to be deemed significant.
The results indicate that on average, only one in six patients will have significant relief from back pain from taking NSAIDs.
So what can you do to help relieve your acute pain?
Relative rest is usually advised to avoid stress on the injured tissues, to allow the healing process to begin.
This does not mean bed rest, which can make the situation worse, but keeping your activity level relatively light and avoiding strenuous activities. However, even this is best kept to the first few days post injury, after which point a gradual re-introduction to normal activities provides the best long-term outcomes.
Once through this initial rest period, exercise has been proven to help in the longer term. This can be a combination of daily exercise, such as walking, as well as other more specific exercises, such as local stretching or strengthening exercises.
Ice has been shown to help with short-term pain relief, as has heat use.
Ice can help minimise inflammation and swelling, however, it can also leave you feeling quite stiff. On the other hand, heat can help reduce muscle spasm and provide some comfort, however, it can aggravate inflammation if left on for too long.
We often recommend an alternate use of heat and ice to our patients with acute pain, of about 5 minutes each, for around 20-30 minutes total.
When using ice, always remember to have a layer between the ice and your skin, such as a tea towel.
Finally, a consultation with your Lifespan Osteopath will help identify the cause of your pain, reduce muscle spasm, mobilise restricted tissues and give tailored advice and exercise prescription specific to you.
Our goal is to help get you back on your feet as quickly as possible!