When your back hurts

In a fitting illustration of just how common back pain is, Cochrane Back Review Group co-founder Dr. Claire Bombardier also had her own experience of debilitating back pain. I was screaming in the night. I couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom, she recalls. Like Furlan, the potential for panic was real.

If it weren’t for my work at the Back Group, and the fact that I knew the evidence, I would have been running to the emergency room asking for surgery, says Bombardier. It was unbelievably helpful to me that I was aware of the evidence. Most patients don’t have that.

To help bring that evidence to patients, IWH produced a booklet called So Your Back Hurts..., which was reviewed by the Back Group. Here are a few of its recommendations:

  • Activity: Move around as much as possible within the limits of your pain, and try to do a little more every day. Ask your clinician about special back exercises. It’s important to do them properly.
  • Pain-relieving drugs: In most cases, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) are safe and effective. Muscle relaxants (e.g., Robaxacet, Robaxisal) can sometimes be helpful, but they may have troublesome side effects.
  • Spinal manipulation: Delivered by trained practitioners such as chiropractors, physiotherapists or physicians, this may offer short-term relief for acute low-back pain.
  • Heat: You might get short-term relief from applying low-level heat to the lower back.
  • Massage: Delivered by regulated massage therapists, this can help reduce the pain and improve your ability to function. It can also help you relax.

For a copy of So Your Back Hurts..., go to www.iwh.on.ca/so-your-back-hurts

Source: At Work, Issue 74, Fall 2013: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto

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