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In this week’s article, we’re going to talk about why the use of painkillers for back pain can be questionable, and not necessarily the most useful thing for this type of problem. A huge proportion of patients we see here at the clinic have been previously prescribed painkillers and don’t know why, or they don’t know how it will help them – some people think painkillers are going to cure their pain in the long-term. To understand why they don’t work, it’s best to first understand the nature of back injuries and the most common types that occur.

Why A Back Injury Doesn’t Get Better With Painkillers

If we’re talking about a lower back injury, the main parts of that area of the spine you will likely injure will be the discs, the facet joints or any other ligaments and smaller muscular structures that support and protect the lumbar spine. In reality, you’re more than likely to injure multiple areas at any one time. This area of the body works together in such an interrelated manner, so this is why you may be more likely to damage multiple areas. If you compare this type of an injury, to an ankle sprain, you would probably go to your GP and if they were to say to just take some strong painkillers and walk it off, you’d probably be a bit confused. Walking on an ankle injury and just taking painkillers sounds counterproductive, because you need to use the area constantly to walk. What they would probably instead say is ‘maybe take these painkillers, but let’s put it in a strap (or use a crutch) to support it.’ Helping the ankle to not bear weight will be helpful in allowing it time enough to rest from the everyday pressure walking would place on the injury. Furthermore, if you would just take painkillers you probably wouldn’t feel the pain every time you placed your foot to the floor, which would potentially cause you to walk more on it than you should as the foot heals, causing this healing process to lengthen.

The Purpose Of Pain In The Body

Pain has a purpose. It is there to warn you that something isn’t quite right. You’re in pain because you’ve injured your lower back, and using painkillers to numb this sensation of pain so that you can carry on causing more damage, is not such a sensible move. Generally speaking, if you bend forwards for example and your back gives you a lot of pain for doing that, the pain is telling you to not do that because you’re squashing the disc more, because bending forwards is a problem for people with disc injuries. If the problem is in your facet joints, aching backwards might be a problem for you instead. Now, this pain doesn’t need to be severe for you to understand what’s going on inside your body, so we’re certainly not saying that you should go without them if they are helpful for you. It’s important to be more conscious about why you’re taking the painkillers. A lot of patients are looking for a solution, rather than just to numb the pain. If your pain is stopping you from sleeping, then it makes sense to perhaps take some in the evening before sleeping so that you’re able to rest.Sleeping is very important as it is when the body heals and recovers itself, so if you’re taking painkillers before bed then this is beneficial if the pain can stop you sleeping. If however, you are taking painkillers so that you can go on the treadmill for an extra 15 minutes at the end of your workout, then this is not the smartest move. Now, in fairness you’re not able to isolate your lower back in the same way you could isolate your ankle with a crutch, but you need to pay attention to your pain levels and understand there is something fundamentally wrong.

When Should You Take Painkillers?

A lot of our patients understand when is a smart time to take painkillers, and why they should perhaps avoid it. But if you do have pain that has been ongoing for longer than a week or two, and you’re taking either ibuprofen, paracetamol or other stronger pain medications, do ask yourself whether this is helping you with the problem, or are you taking it to mask the pain in order to perform tasks that might be causing further damage. It sounds obvious to say, but just because the pain isn’t there after you’ve taken painkillers, it doesn’t mean the problem no longer exists. If the pain isn’t resolving on its own after a couple of weeks, then going to see someone who can help you and give you the treatment you need will be very helpful. On our website, you will be able to find videos and further articles to give you some clearer guidance on what you can do at home with your back to stop the pain from getting worse.

The muscle is most likely becoming tight as a result of prolonged episodes of bad posture, such as a long day at the office, so the only way to fix it is to correct the posture. If the problem is in its early stages, then becoming aware of your posture on a regular basis can help you to keep in check with your body’s position. Reminding yourself periodically during the day can help you to correct your posture until it becomes natural instinct. Unfortunately at first this can be uncomfortable as the muscles have weakened over time due to not being used to hold an upright, correct posture. Over time maintaining good posture will strengthen the muscles and it will become more comfortable, it’s just a case of powering through the initial difficult phase.

The solution if the mid back pain is chronic

If the problem has become chronic, you suspect it could be down to the alignment of your spine or a problem with a spinal disc, for example if you’re suffering with other symptoms such as stiffness in the neck or referred pain into other areas of the body – you may require a deeper investigation to examine the overall condition of your spine. Your local osteopath or chiropractor, including The Mayfair Clinic if you’re based in the London area, should be able to examine your spine using physical tests, and with x-ray imaging if it’s needed, in order to identify the underlying problem. Once that has been completed, a treatment plan can be formed to give you a plan going forward to relieve the pain and resolve the problem. This form of problem can be more difficult to resolve but it’s likely that without treatment it will only become worse.

If you’ve been suffering with pain in the mid-back, we hope this guide has been useful to you to find a solution. Resolving the problem when it’s in its early stages is the best way to ensure you keep your spine in tip-top condition as you age. If you’re experiencing pain and you’re unsure as to what’s causing the problem, we offer examinations that can get to the bottom of what is causing you pain – including x-ray imaging if you need it, a diagnosis for peace of mind, and a treatment in your first session. To book an appointment or discuss your case with a member of our expert team, get in touch with us by calling or filling out a contact form.

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