You bend down to pick up a bag of groceries, but a sudden noise makes your head turn. And then you feel stabbing pain. It can be a simple gesture, such as bending down or lifting something heavy that can cause this pain.
Neck and back problems are common; They fall into the superfamily of musculoskeletal problems. In 2017, back pain was the main reason people lived with a disability.
Nowadays, back and neck problems are even more common. With more people working from home and sitting in unusual or sub-optimal positions, back problems are almost inevitable. “Most workplaces have been really good at providing – at least – better ergonomic facilities for their employees,” said Karen Erikson, DC. “And literally everyone had to work overnight from their living room, their kitchen counter, or their dining table or sofa. “This was not good for collective back health.” We really saw an entirely different type of injury than people who don’t have good attitudes, “said Dr. Erikson, a private chiropractor in New York.
Neck and shoulder pain are not only annoying, they can also become chronic problems. People change the way they move to adapt to and avoid pain. There are many treatment options here. Traditionally, someone could see a physical therapist or chiropractor either to work on strengthening the affected body parts or to correct any misalignment. Recently, however, a new approach has been used.
A 2020 study tracked 149 people with back pain. Some of them received motor training and others took part in strength and flexibility exercises. People receiving motor training (MST) have been taught to do everyday activities without activating their back pain. Motor skills training can also involve relearning certain activities. One big difference between MST and other treatments is that MST focuses on specific activities that can be painful or difficult, rather than the movement as a whole.
The researchers found that people who did the MST had better results over the long term. Both groups had improvements, but people who received MST appeared to be able to practice on their own and were more likely to keep using it. Of course, this may not be the case for all people, but when patients were trained in how to do activities together without activating their back pain, their lives seemed to improve.
A 2018 study of a 26-year-old with lower back pain found that 12 weeks of MST helped him relieve pain, improve function, and take less ibuprofen. He specifically wanted to work on sleeping, sitting and standing at his desk to do the dishes.
MST can be done along with other interventions such as massage therapy, physical therapy, or chiropractic adjustment. The World Health Organization in 2019 said in a bulletin that international clinical guidelines for treating lower back pain are diverging from drugs and invasive therapies, advocating spinal manipulation, yoga, acupuncture, etc. instead.
Patients may find it better to avoid bad back habits before starting. Now with so many working from home, people are facing two problems: poor posture and too little exercise. “So when you sit … your body should be like a chair, the weight should be on two feet and two sit bones,” said Dr. Erikson, “but a lot of us kind of sink forward, we go around our spine like that. It’s not upright, it puts a lot of strain on the intervertebral discs. We see an increased incidence of headaches with chronic neck and shoulder pain and stiffness.” staring with the cell phone adds to bad habits.
Bad posture and looking at the phone are only part of the bigger story: we don’t move very much. People can spend 10 to 12 hours a day in the same position, she said. “We just don’t really use our bodies for a variety of activities.”
Ideally, run for an hour a day. “It’s so important,” she said, suggesting turning a meeting into a walking meeting to begin those steps.
Avoiding back pain is not just about your back, it’s your whole body, even your stomach. “I tell my patients not to ask, ‘Am I thirsty? ‘Ask the question, “When was the last time I had water?” Said Dr. Erikson. Dehydration can cause more pain and muscle cramps. Aim for eight glasses a day and the classic eight hours of sleep.
Dr. Erikson recommended a low-inflammatory diet high in fruits and vegetables. She knows that this may not be easy. “It was a challenge because people choose what tastes good, they want to feel good,” she said, but good nutrition is important to feel good.
William Welches, DO, PhD of the Cleveland Clinic, recommended “eating the rainbow” in an interview with the Cleveland Clinic. He agreed with the link between inflammatory foods and back pain. Speaking to Harvard Health Publishing, Fred Tabung, PhD, MSPH stated that while the anti-inflammatory diet is not a “quick pill,” it “has great potential for treating and even preventing inflammation, which can help relieve chronic pain. “
In general, experts agree on lots of fruits and vegetables, limited sugar, red meat and dairy products, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
In addition to diet, general full-body exercise can help with pain. Although yoga is not a panacea, research has shown that it can help with back pain. For people who might be intimidated, Dr. Erikson: “I think there is a type of yoga for every fitness level,” she explained. Part of it is listening to your body.
Her advice: never get into a position that causes pain. Sore is one thing, pain is another.
So it’s okay to get out of a position earlier than the yoga instructor prefers and decrease the number of suggested repetitions. “A day of hard training isn’t worth several days of intense pain,” she said.
“I always tell my patients, you have to go home in your body, so don’t do anything that you will feel the next day.”
For those looking to work up a sweat, Dr. Erikson “the plank” as a good all-purpose core exercise: “It’s that simple, you don’t need a lot of space, but really, really helpful,” she said. The muscles of the core not only contribute to a six pack abs, they also stabilize the back. Having a strong core can actually help stave off back pain.
Telehealth is also an option for back pain. For any type of treatment, MST, physiotherapy, or chiropractic care, this is not the complete experience, but patients can be assessed and treated to some extent.
Of course, back pain is sometimes more severe. A numb limb, brilliant pain in the arm or leg, or a loss of grip are reasons to seek professional help. In general, however, seeing someone for back pain is a good idea, as an untreated injury can cause damage over time, even if it feels like it has gone away on its own. Don’t live in pain, she said. “There are real solutions … you just have to take action.”
Medically reviewed by Yvonne Stolworthy, MSN, RN.