Acute Pain

Get a good nights sleep to reduce back pain

Totalback Acute Pain, Back Pain, Chronic Pain, Neck Pain Comments Off on Get a good nights sleep to reduce back pain

Studies have shown that lack of sleep can contribute to increasing our perception of pain. So how do you get a good nights sleep to reduce back pain?

Those of you with back pain are saying, how do I get a good nights sleep when my back is killing me? It can be tough to achieve but here are some tips to help you get a better nights sleep.

  • Check your mattress and pillow – If you have a mattress that is over 10 years old, it’s time for a change. Pillows should be replaced about every 1-2 years.
  • Sleep cool – Your body stays in deeper sleep longer with the proper room temperature. It is recommended your sleeping temperature be between 60-67 degrees.
  • Watch what and when you eat and drink – Avoid foods that may trigger heartburn before you go to bed. Foods that are high in sugar can also create a restless night sleep. If you are hungry, eat a handful of nuts, fruits like berries and bananas. With drink, avoid caffeine and alcohol, try non-caffeinated tea or warm milk. Have water by your bed, but try not to drink too much, or you may need to get up throughout the night to got to bath room.
  • Sleep in the right position – Avoid sleeping on your stomach and try to sleep on you back or side. For back sleepers with back pain, try a pillow under your knees to take some of the stress off your back. For side lying position, try a body pillow to help keep your spine alignment.
  • Avoid exercise before bed time – Exercise amps up your body making it harder to go to sleep. Try not to workout 3 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Turn off your electronics – Light from your phones, computers and televisions can keep your brain from preparing for sleep. Put the phone down and on silent and disconnect from other electronics in order to get a good nights sleep.
  • Give yourself the time for sleep – Plan for 8 hours of sleep. Go to bed early enough to allow yourself to get enough sleep. As we get older, the more likely we get up earlier and earlier, regardless of work or life schedule.

These are some things that you can do to help you get a better night sleep when you have back pain. Consult with your physician if your back pain is not letting you get a good nights sleep.

Diet can reduce back pain

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As they say, “You are what you eat!”  What we eat can help us meet many health and fitness goals.  So you might think your diet can reduce back pain,and you would be right.  Check out these diet tips to help reduce back pain.

  1. Stay hydrated – The discs in your spine are primarily made up of water.  Well hydrated body tissues help cushion the body and help the healing process.  Make sure to drink plenty of liquids.
  2. Eat healthy proteins – Protein is an important building block to muscle repair. But not all high protein foods are the same.  Consider adding fish like, salmon or tuna, to your diet.  They are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is an anti-inflammatory.  Some meats, especially processed meats, can actually create an inflammatory response.
  3. Eat “bright” vegetables – Typically vegetables with deep colors, actually have anti-inflammatory properties.  Try adding foods like, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, grapes and red wine, pomegranate, and watermelon to your diet.
  4. Other foods – Other good food choices for an anti-pain diet: avocados; nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, and Brazil nuts); lean proteins, such as chicken and turkey; beans; and cocoa.

Take a comprehensive approach to treating your back pain by making sure your diet supports your back pain recovery.

Types of Pain You Shouldn’t Ignore

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Everybody experiences pain at one time or another and we will often ignore it.  But there are certain types of pain you shouldn’t ignore.

Chest pain 

Heart attack pain can feel like pressure in the center of your chest, which may spread to the jaw, neck and arm. Other possible heart attack signs include pain that gets worse when you exert yourself, shortness of breath, nausea and sweating.


While most headaches are not a sign of a severe medical problem, there’s one exception: pain that comes on suddenly, particularly after exertion, and feels like the worst headache of your life. This could be a sign of an aneurysm, or bleeding in the brain. This type of headache needs immediate medical attention.

Abdominal pain

Stomach pain is one of the most common complaints seen in the ER. In as many as half of cases, there’s no specific diagnosis. Common causes of abdominal pain include appendicitis, gallstones (hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder), pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas) and diverticulitis (when pouches in the wall of the colon get inflamed or infected).

Appendicitis is associated with pain in the right lower section of the abdomen and is often accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting. Anyone with these symptoms should go directly to the ER. If the pain is caused by appendicitis, a quick diagnosis is important because if it’s caught before the appendix ruptures, the surgeon often can remove the appendix with laparoscopic surgery. If the surgery isn’t done until after the appendix ruptures, the surgery becomes more complicated, and the recovery is longer.

Gallstones cause pain in the right upper section of the abdomen, often after eating a fatty meal. The pain can be severe and is often associated with nausea. As with appendicitis, removing gallstones early makes surgery simpler, with a faster recovery.

Back pain

While most cases of back pain are caused by muscle strain, some types of back pain are a sign of a more serious problem. Back pain associated with weakness and numbness in the arms and legs, or accompanied by fever, should be evaluated immediately. This type of back pain could be a sign of a spinal cord infection, which should be treated right away to reduce the risk of permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Severe upper back pain, whether or not it’s accompanied by chest pain, could be a sign of a heart attack or aneurysm.

Leg pain

If you have leg pain along with swelling of the leg, it could be a sign of a blood clot. The risk of a blood clot is higher after a long period of immobility, such as a long plane ride or after a person has been in bed for a while following surgery. The pain caused by a blood clot feels more like throbbing or aching. A blood clot is diagnosed with an ultrasound.

You will want to identify and treat a blood clot as quickly as possible, because an untreated clot could get larger, break off and go to the lungs, where it can cause a life-threatening problem.

Difference between a strain, sprain, or tear

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strain, sprain, or tearMost people don’t know what the difference is between a strain, sprain, or tear of a muscle.  But as a provider these are very important delineations in how we approach the care of an injury. So what is the difference?

A sprain is a ligament injury. A ligament is fibrous connective tissue that connect bones to each other and stabilize them.  Typically ligament injuries occur when a joints range of motion is pushed to an unnatural position.  Sprain injuries can vary in severity, which will contribute to the time for recovery

A strain injury is a muscle or tendon injury.  This is commonly caused when a muscle is overloaded and is over stretched.  There are two types of strain injuries, acute strains and chronic strain injuries.  Acute strains are instantaneous strain injuries and chronic strains are caused by repetitive motions over time that place stress on muscle or tendon.  Strain injuries, like sprain injuries, can vary in severity, which will contribute to the time for recovery.

A tear injury is a muscle, tendon or ligament injury that results in the tearing of the fibrous tissue.  These can be more serious than strain or sprain injuries.  They can result in the need for a surgical repair in order to restore proper function.

The rehabilitation process is strongly driven by identifying the type of injury that has occurred.  It is recommended that you seek a medical professional in order to identify that severity of the injury before beginning treatment.

Are Back Braces Bad For You?

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back braces bad for youThe most common injury in the work place was a back injury.  Back Braces were the big “safety” feature in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in helping protect workers backs when lifting objects.  The problem arose when people would wear back braces for any lifting activities and gradually their abdominal core muscles became weaker and weaker because of lack of use.  This led to people becoming more susceptible to having a back injury from performing even the most basic of movements.   The question arose, “Are back braces bad for you?”

The popularity of back bracing has waned from this heyday, but we are beginning to see a resurgence of back bracing again.  This time around many of them are more compression based wraps versus the more rigid support provided by the older back braces.  The benefit of compression based wraps is they provide light support but encourage more abdominal muscle engagement to brace the back.  In acute cases this can help people get over the “hump” with back pain.  For people with chronic back pain, wearing a brace all the time could actually be exacerbating the injury.  The important thing is to focus on spending time strengthening you back and abdominal core muscles

Better Night Sleep with Back Pain

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One of the biggest challenges for people with back pain is getting a good night sleep.  Getting a better night sleep with back pain isn’t impossible if you do a few things.  Follow these tips to a better night sleep.

  1. Check your mattress – If your mattress is over 10 years old you will want to consider replacing it.  An old mattress doesn’t do a good job provide good back support.
  2. Check your pillows – Pillows break down quicker than mattresses and can reduce support for the head and neck.  Having the proper head and neck support will help provide a good nights sleep
  3. Stretch – Stretches like hamstring stretch, piriformis stretch, iliopsaos stretch, and back lying trunk rotations can help get muscles loosened up in the back encouraging better blood floor for recovery while you sleep
  4. Check your position – Laying flat on your back is the most decompressed position you can put your spine in.  Place a pillow under the knees to provide even better support.  Side-lying is sometimes more comfortable, especially if you place a body pillow between your arms and knees.  Avoid laying on your stomach.
  5. Give yourself time – Making sure you go to bed early enough to let your back get into a position to relax is important.  Often slight shifts in position may pull us from deep sleep, due to pain response.  If you normally sleep 7 hours, go to bed an extra hour earlier to help you hit your target.

Getting a good nights sleep will help with stress and irritability with back pain.  Before you go to bed tonight try these tips to get a better nights sleep.

How to treat back pain

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A recent article published on Harvard Health Publications cites how the approach to treat back pain has changed since the 1980’s.  Up until the 1980’s bed rest was the most prevelant way to treat back pain.  By the early 1990’s, use of anti-inflammatory medication and light activity where commonly prescribed.  Recent studies now state that use of any medication in the initial treatment of back pain is ineffective and possibly harmful.  The new way doctors are prescribing treatment is to try, massage, heat, accupuncture, and spinal manipulation for treating acute back pain.  For chronic back pain the recommendation is to prescribe physical therapy, accupuncture, and stress reduction programs.

The new approach to treating back pain is not using any new techniques, but by limiting, if not eliminating the prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories is definitely a big change for many physicians.  Learn more:  Here’s something completely different for low back pain.

Steroid Injections and Back Pain

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Chronic lower back pain affects millions of Americans. Many try steroid injections to ease their discomfort, but researchers now say this remedy provides only short-term relief.

A study performed in France recently found that people that had steroid injections to relieve back pain had no long term effects.  They found that a single injection had the most benefit, but follow up injections had only a limited effect.

Patients rated their pain severity before the injection and again one, three, six and 12 months after the treatment.

One month after treatment, 55 percent of those who got the steroid injection experienced less lower back pain, compared with 33 percent of those who weren’t treated.

“However, the groups did not differ for the assessed outcomes 12 months after the injection,” Nguyen said.

For example, patients who did or didn’t received a steroid injection ended up in similar circumstances, with the same incidence of disc inflammation, lower quality of life, more anxiety and depression and continued use of non-narcotic pain pills, she said.

Overall, most patients found the steroid injections tolerable, and would agree to have a second one if necessary, Nguyen said. “We had no specific safety concerns and found no cases of infection, destruction or calcification of the disc 12 months after the injection,” she added.

The results were published March 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study doesn’t say that steroid injections should not be used to treat back pain.  In certain cases of acute back pain, it can be helpful in the recovery and addressing pain management.  People experiencing chronic back pain would be better served seeking alternative methods of treatment.

10 tips to reduce stress

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Reducing stress in your life helps with your overall well-being and helps reduce pain. When we are stressed the body is at a continuous state of fight or flight through the release of cortisol which can inhibit our mind from returning to a state of calm.   Here are 10 tips to reduce stress that doesn’t involve a vacation or spa weekend.

  1. Meditate – This can take place anywhere at anytime.  Sit up straight with feet on floor, and think of something warm and relaxing and close your eyes.  Shut out the world around you and let your mind focus on this peaceful, serene place.  A few minutes of meditation can make a big difference in
  2. Deep breathing – This is excellent when you feel frantic and hot tempered.  Sitting calmly for about 5 minutes just taking slow deep breaths that go from your diaphragm to the upper part of your chest can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
  3. Be Present – Reduce the number of things you are thinking about and focus on one sense, like, taste, touch, hearing, smell, or sight.  Listen to nature or watch a pretty view.  Bring yourself to the now.
  4. Reach out to people – Reach out to your family or friends, do this face to face, not online.  Talk to them about what you are dealing with and invite a new perspective that may help you find solace.
  5. Tune into your body – Find a place to lay down flat on your back and start with your toes and go up, taking a moment to see how each body part feels.
  6. Decompress – Take a warm bath, lay on a heating pad, place a warm wash cloth on your face, or massage an area that is holding tension.
  7. Laugh out Loud – Think of something funny, listen to a comedian you like, but the act of smiling and laughing triggers the release of endorphins that helps suppress the release of cortisol.
  8. Listen to music – Listening to your favorite up-beat music and even singing along with it can do wonders in relieving your stress.
  9. Get moving – Exercise and activity can help release chemicals that help provide positive energy and emotions.
  10. Be grateful – Create a journal that you write in daily that documents what you did for yourself, work, family, and community.  Even if it is what you might consider a minor thing it triggers a positive emotional response in the brain.

Highly effective people lead stressful lives but have understand that stress doesn’t have to be contained in the body, but released in a way that can lead to a positive lifestyle.  It’s the harboring of stress in the body that does damage to it and can lead to more pain.

Best exercise programs for people with back pain

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What are the best exercise programs for people with back pain?


One of the foundations we try to establish with our patients is the importance of proper exercise to keep your back healthy.  There are a lot of different programs out there, some are better suited with dealing with back pain.  We take a look at some of the more popular programs out there and provide some advice on which ones may be better for back pain conditions.

  • Yoga – Yoga is a great option for people with back pain.  It focuses on flexibility and core stability will working on breathing and relaxing.  Stress is strongly correlated to the intensity of back pain.  Yoga is not the best option for weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning, or building muscle mass, but is probably on of the best options for people returning to an exercise program right after a bout of back pain. Many local gyms offer Yoga to its members and exercises can be easily practiced at home with minimal equipment
  • Pilates – Pilates also ranks very high as a great option for people with back pain.  Pilates focus is flexibility, strength, stability and control and endurance for the whole body.  It will have some increased benefits for strength because it will use some resistance training.  Pilates strong foundation of improving core stability can definitely help improve spine instabilities that can lead to back pain.  Pilates requires some very specialized equipment, commonly known as a “Reformer”.  Classes are typically offered by certified Pilates instructors and are often provided one-on-one. Pilates is not something you can easily do at home.  Pilates, like Yoga, is not the best option for weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning, but may improve muscle mass due to the resistance element with the reformer.
  • Interval training – Interval training is a general term and includes many of the popular programs you see today, P90x, Orange Theory, Crossfit, etc.  These programs are very popular because they reduce exercise boredom, by constantly varying exercises.  Many people can experience weight loss, better cardiovascular health, increased endurance and more muscle mass with these programs.  There is not as much focus on flexibility, as compared to Yoga and Pilates.  Many of the programs involve a group setting, which for some people can be encouraging or create a competitive atmosphere.  This can be motivating but can also lead people to push beyond their bodies limits, which for people with back pain can exacerbate the condition.  These types of programs are widely available and can also vary widely in cost.  Having a properly trained coach/trainer is important when doing this type of program.  A properly trained individual can help make modifications to the program to better suit an individuals condition.  People with back pain should approach this type of program with caution and discipline to stay within their limits and listen to their body.


The important thing is to stay active!  People with sedentary lifestyles often experience more back pain than ones with active lifestyles.  Doing any activity within your body’s tolerance is better than doing nothing at all.  A structured, consistent program can help people with back pain experience a better quality of life.  So get out there and move!

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