Learning to keep your cool is as good for your back as it is for your mental health. When you're anxious, your body sets off the "fight or flight" response, which involves tensing your muscles so you're ready to spring into action. One European study revealed that people prone to negative thoughts and anxiety are more likely to suffer from back pain. Get calm now with these stress-busting solutions.
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"I am a true believer in Biofreeze ($15; performancehealth.com). My football coach introduced me to it years ago. It's a topical cooling pain reliever that works very similarly to ice but since it's a gel, I can apply it before teaching classes and training clients to keep function in my muscles and joints. In addition to relieving muscle pain or soreness, it can be used to help arthritis and other muscular and joint discomforts too. " —Mat Forzaglia, The Fhitting Room instructor
People who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (other than aspirin) such as topical diclofenac (Pennsaid, Voltaren) may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than people who do not use these medications. These events may happen without warning and may cause death. This risk may be higher for people who use NSAIDs for a long time. Do not use an NSAID such as topical diclofenac if you have recently had a heart attack, unless directed to do so by your doctor.Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has or has ever had heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke; if you smoke; and if you have or have ever had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Get emergency medical help right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness in one part or side of your body, or slurred speech.
8. Capsaicin (Capsicum) – Found in hot chile peppers, this natural remedy does wonders for pain. Capsaicin, the active pain-reducing ingredient, temporarily desensitizes nerve receptors called C-fibers which cause the pain response. Capsaicin also diminishes soreness for 3 to 5 weeks while the C-fibers regain sensation. A single 60-min application in patients with neuropathic pain produced effective pain relief for up to 12 weeks. Patients at the New England Center for Headache decreased their migraine and cluster headache intensity by applying capsaicin cream to their nasal passages.
Turmeric can be consumed in a variety of forms, including as a spice added to foods or drinks and encapsulated for those who are not tolerant of the signature spicy taste. Two to three teaspoons of turmeric daily can help to provide therapeutic levels of relief and preventive benefits with little side effects. Note: Turmeric absorbs best when taken in combination with black pepper (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper for every 1 teaspoon of turmeric). (17)
People with sensitive skin, infants, children, pregnant women, and seniors might be at a higher use using these products. People with kidney problems or kidney failure in the past shouldn’t try an Ibuprofen cream. If you take aspirin, prescribed blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or have bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract, consult your healthcare provider before using these topical pain products. Do not use salicylates that cause blood to be thinner.
Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation, says E. Anne Reicherter, PhD, PT, DPT, associate professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Even though the warmth feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes," she says. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice -- take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest. If pain persists, talk with a doctor.
“For years I have suffered with sciatica pain going down my right side. It is so painful that even sitting hurts. Nothing has ever worked well. I tried your patches by putting 3 discs on the painful area. For 3 days, I was pain free. As you suggested, I replaced the patches with new ones after 3 days and it no longer hurts. I also used it on my shoulder after a fall. It works! Thank you for helping me find relief.” – Norma M.
Alternate warm and cold. Try alternating soaks in warm and cold water, especially if you have swelling. Fill one sink with cold water (65 degrees Fahrenheit) and another with warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Leave your hands or feet in the warm water for five to 10 minutes, and then switch to cold for one minute. Return to the warm for three to four minutes, and then switch to cold for another minute. Repeat this four or five times.
The advantage of using a topical analgesic is that the medication works locally. Targeting pain more precisely using a medication applied to the skin can help skirt the side effects of oral drugs. This can be a boon for people whose stomachs are sensitive to NSAIDs. (Keep in mind that a small amount of the medicine still enters the bloodstream and ends up in the stomach and elsewhere, so a topical analgesic isn’t a guarantee against NSAID-related stomach irritation.)
Release your inner endorphins. Endorphins are the natural pain relievers produced by your body. They work by binding to the opioid receptors in your brain to block the perception of pain, similar to opioid pain medications, such as oxycodone or morphine. Spurring increased production of these natural hormones can substantially help reduce your pain, as well as produce profound feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.1
Whether it was brought on by arthritis, a structural or nerve problem, bending the wrong way, or lifting something a little too heavy, low back pain is frustrating as all get-out. But if you're struggling, know this: You're definitely not alone. Most people experience back pain at some point in their lives, and it's one of the most common reasons people book doctor's appointments and call out of work. It's also one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Many readers assume that “skeptics” will always favour mainstream and pharmaceutical treatments like Voltaren, but nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, some skeptics are leading the charge against bad pharmaceutical industry science and practices (and a great example is Ben Goldacre’s new book, Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients). Pharmacist Scott Gavura of Science-Based Pharmacy was certainly skeptical about topical NSAIDs like Voltaren when he first tackled the topic early in 2011.13 “When I recently noticed a topical NSAID appear for sale as an over-the-counter treatment for muscle aches and pains … I was confident it would make a good case study in bad science.”
Physical activity. Exercise helps build strong, flexible muscles that will be less prone to injury. It can also help the healing process for an aching back, prevent problems in the future, and improve function. Work with your doctor to develop an exercise program, or seek a referral to another health professional who can. A good program typically includes the three major forms of exercise: aerobic activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
Capsaicin. Derived from hot chile peppers, topical capsaicin may be useful for some people in relieving pain. "Capsaicin works by depleting substance P, a compound that conveys the pain sensation from the peripheral to the central nervous system. It takes a couple of days for this to occur," says David Kiefer, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.