Health – Watch your back

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people see their doctor, or even miss work.  

If you are suffering from back pain, you may be experiencing symptoms varying from muscle aches through to shooting or burning sensations. 

The good news is that most back pain will slowly get better with home treatment within a few weeks. However, there are some instances where you may need to see a doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist, or even get immediate medical attention. 

Although it seems counter intuitive, in general it is important that you try to get back to daily activities as soon as you can. However any activities, including sports, that might worsen your back pain should be avoided. Consult a medical professional if unsure about the best approach to take.

For many, regular pain relief will be required. Paracetamol, taken regularly as per dose instructions, can provide good relief.  NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, are very effective for back pain and may be used either alone or in conjunction with the paracetamol. However speak with your doctor or pharmacist about whether they might be right for you. There are several medications that NSAIDs interact with and some people for whom they might cause issues. A safer option may be to use a topical NSAID, such as a gel, as these are mostly absorbed directly at the site of application and therefore do not have as much of a risk of interaction or side effects. 

Traditionally menthol containing liniments such as Deep Heat have been used to relieve sore backs. These days there are a plethora of topical alternatives available. Anti-flamme and Koru Fx are just  two of many New Zealand-made natural topical creams that soothe muscular aches. Zostrix is also a topical cream employed for a variety of pain issues including backpack. It uses the active ingredient capsaicin, which comes from chillis, to help with pain. Nurofen has just released its Duralast Dermal Patch, which enables the medication (ibuprofen) to stay at the site for a full 24 hours. 

Both hot and cold can help a sore back. You can use a wheat pack or covered hot water bottle for heat or an ice gel pack, whichever works for you. Some people even find alternating between the two to be the best option.