Back and neck pain is a… well, a pain in the neck! Suffering from back pain can make your entire body ache and lead to muscle spasms, poor sleep, fatigue, and many other health problems. Doctors categorize back pain in three categories: upper, middle, and lower (with or without sciatica symptoms).
Most of us have suffered from back pain during our lives, whether it be from straining to lift something heavy or sitting for extended periods of time. But sometimes, back pain can be an indicator of something more serious.
You should contact your doctor if your back pain shoots around your hip and down your leg; you might be suffering from sciatica. If you have weakness in the legs, tingling, or numbness accompanied by back pain, you might have a spinal injury. And pain that increases when you bend over or cough may indicate a herniated disc.
Anyone can get back pain, but certain things can make you more at risk. These factors include age, lack of exercise, being overweight, diseases like cancer or arthritis, using improper lifting techniques, anxiety or depression, and smoking.
If you visit your doctor about your back pain, he or she will ask you questions to help determine the cause and severity of your pain. You’ll also be asked to rate your pain from 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain imaginable. Depending on your situation, your doctor might order some diagnostic testing, including X-ray, CT or MRI scans, blood tests, or nerve or bone scans.
There are many ways to treat back pain, some of which you can do on your own at home. You can use ice or heat to help relieve the pain. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil or Aleve may help reduce pain and swelling. If these don’t offer any relief, your doctor might prescribe stronger pain medicines and/or muscle relaxers, or give you an injection to help with your pain and muscle spasms. Physical therapy might also be recommended.
There are alternative treatments you can try as well. A chiropractor can manipulate the spine to correct any out-of-place vertebral joints. Acupuncture and massage can also offer relief to back pain. And doing yoga, something you can do at home, helps to strengthen and stretch back muscles.
You can help to prevent back pain by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and building muscles up before attempting heavy lifting. And when you do lift, you should use proper lifting techniques.
If you suffer from upper back and neck pain, using a cervical pillow may offer you some relief. A cervical pillow helps to support the spine in its proper alignment. You’ll want to find a pillow that’s not too tall or too flat; both can add to your pain, possibly waking you through the night. A cervical pillow should keep your spine in the neutral position, in other words straight, as you sleep.
There are many styles of cervical pillows available, so you might have to try a few before you find the best cervical pillow for you. Some are constructed with memory foam and others are filled with fiber like a standard pillow. Most of them have a unique shape that helps to keep your spine in the proper alignment. You can also find hypoallergenic cervical pillows and pillows with an added layer of gel to keep you cool all night long.
When you get a cervical pillow to try, you should give it a few days before you decide if it will work or not. Your body will need this time to adjust to using something different. If the pillow just isn’t working after a week or two, then you might need to try another style. The right pillow for you should leave you feeling more resting and allow you to wake with less pain and stiffness.
Living with back and neck pain can be stressful and frustrating. You may have tried numerous things to alleviate your pain with little or no success. If you’re under the care of a physician, follow his or her instructions. And remember, you’re not alone.