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Can your back pain be treated at home?

Not all back pain requires you to see a doctor.

Because the back is composed of a complex system of muscles and ligaments surrounding the spine’s intricate web of bones and joints, back pain can stem from minor sprains, strains and irritated nerves.

“If you are in otherwise good health, have not been injured in an accident and your pain is neither severe nor accompanied with numbness, weakness or difficulties with your bowel or bladder function, you may be experiencing minor muscle pain that can be managed at home,” says Dr. Jerrel Boyer, a neurosurgeon at Advocate Trinity Hospital, in Chicago. “Minor back pain will typically go away on its own within four to six weeks.”

Minor back pain can be managed at home with brief bouts of rest, heat or ice packs, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications. However, Dr. Boyer warns do-it-yourselfers to be careful of inversion boots, racks and tables that are popular among chronic sufferers of back pain — especially if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma.

“The idea of suspending yourself upside down, allowing gravity to decompress and pull your spine into alignment, may seem like a logical DIY plan for back pain relief, but inversion therapy is not safe for everyone and can cause more harm than good,” Dr. Boyer says.

“Plus,” he adds, “There is no clear-cut evidence that inversion therapy is helpful.”

Resting in an inverted position with your feet directly above your head for more than a couple of minutes may cause your blood pressure to rise and slow down your heartbeat, which can lead to stroke. An inverted position will also cause your eye pressure to spike, which can heighten the vision-damaging effects of glaucoma.

Dr. Boyer says back pain can also result from more serious conditions such as ruptured disks, irritated joints and diseases of the internal organs.

He recommends seeing your doctor immediately if your back pain comes with flu-like symptoms, unexplained weight loss or if you have a history of osteoporosis or cancer. He also recommends seeking prompt attention if you have any of the more serious warning signs (described above), including numbness, weakness or bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Keywords: Advocate Trinity Hospital, back pain, orthopedic surgeon, orthopedics

Posted in Health

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