I see a number of people who have had no success with the long term relief of back pain by going to see their doctor. There is a lot that can be done with injury and back pain before you seek medical treatment. Even when you go to your doctor they recommend you exercise to relieve back pain. What they don't specify is what exercise is best for you. One thing is for sure, pain medication will only mask your symptoms and can make you think you are ok again until the medication wares off. Medications also put your liver and digestive system under stress. So what can you do to ease your back pain before going to see your doctor?
1. Notice your pattern of pain
The more information you can gather about your patterns of pain the more likely you will notice what triggers your back pain and what exacerbates it. Do you wake up with pain? Does it occur later in the day? How bad is it? Does it decrease? By how much? You might find that by noticing the patterns of your pain you are able to make changes to help ease the discomfort.
Movement may seem like an unlikely remedy for a back ache but it is surprisingly effective. The key to movement for relief of pain is doing it gently. Walking can often provide a sense of relief (however if it makes it worse and sitting relieves it then take a rest periodically). I recommend my clients do gentle back specific mobilizations upon waking daily to ease the back into the day. You can download your copy of the Precision Movement Daily Mobilizations
3. Activate your core
If you know how to do this then focus on it by activating consciously throughout the day. For more information see my article "Does having a strong core relieve low back pain?". If you do not know how to do this then seek out a specialist who can teach you how. Ultimately, if your back is aching it is telling you something is not right. From a mechanical perspective it means certain areas of your body are taking more stress and other parts are not doing their job. You'll need help with restoring this balance so seek out a corrective exercise specialist to help you with this.
4. Stop, look, listen
Notice what might be causing or contributing to your back pain. It might be the heavy boxes you moved yesterday or the position you are sitting in at work. It may even be the exercise you are doing that makes your back pain worse. Think broadly, it might not be a mechanical cause, pain can come from digestive issues such as food intolerance or constipation and in my clinical experience pain always gets worse when you are stressed. Look at everything. As obvious as it seems stop doing what you think may be causing/exacerbating the pain and see if your back calms down.
5. Think and take control of your thoughts
I know this sounds a little ominous but stay with me for a moment. Sometimes people who have structural damage do not experience any pain. It is a conundrum that puzzles medical practitioners even today. What this really means is pain does not come solely from structural or mechanical issues or everyone who has structural damage would be in pain. What tends to happen with pain is that we let it take control and rule our lives. I have a wonderful client who went on a silent meditation retreat last year. While he was sitting through a 6 hour meditation session his knee began to hurt. His meditation teacher advised that he think on the pain and try to deconstruct it. After some time he managed to break it down into a feeling of pressure and heat. He changed his relationship with pain and it took his pain away. Your brain is as adaptable as your body and it will learn what pain does for you and establish a trigger that sets it off without your conscious permission. When you let pain take over and control you no amount of exercise and treatment will help you get better in the long term.