From contraptions for back pain treatment that suspend us upside down to automatic Chinese ear acupuncture devices to grape seed and pine bark extracts, a seemingly endless number of products are now on the market for upper and lower back pain relief. Some $2.5 billion was spent on such products for healing back pain, reported Time magazine. And business continues to boom.
Along with the more traditional back pain treatment items such as heating pads and high-quality mattresses, specialized back pain relief emporiums springing up throughout North America are stocking water-filled pillows, “magic finger” neck massagers, cushions that vibrate in response to the sounds of the TV … It is not possible to list all the ergonomic innovations, the gadgets and the gizmos, much less review them all here. Instead, this overview of some of the more popular items will give you a view of the market, along with some consumer advice on dealing with both upper and lower back pain.
The Classics Back Pain Treatment Options
As dazzled as we may be by all the high-tech innovations that promise lower back pain relief, some of the approaches mother taught us still work best.
Cold For Healing Back Pain
Cryotherapy, the use of cold, is the time-honored, unchallenged remedy for reducing swelling, increasing circulation, and limiting inflammation. If you’re looking for something fancier than a plastic bag to fill with crushed ice, a variety of cold packs can be purchased, including reusable gel packs that can be cooled in the lower part of the refrigerator before use, and items like the Chillow Cooling Pillow Insert, which can be slipped between pillow and pillowcase and reclined against for cushioned neck and back pain relief.
The sooner you apply cold, the better the results, and the general recommendation is to do so during the acute stage of pain, within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours. To avoid potential harm to skin and tissues, avoid direct contact between the frozen substance and the skin. Wrap the pack in a towel or some other buffer, and don’t apply for more than twenty minutes at a time. Let your skin temperature return to normal before another session.
Heat For Lower Back Pain Treatment
If cold treatment is first aid, heat is second. Thermotherapy can help relieve back muscle pain and soreness and hasten recovery when used after the first forty-eight hours of discomfort.
Heating pads, hot water bottles, clay or gel packs, or liquid sodium acetate containers – some microwaveable – are some of the many delivery systems available to increase circulation and decrease muscle spasm. Another option: heat lamps that employ soothing infrared light to temporarily relieve aches and back pains. (Be careful not to confuse with sunlamps, which are often sold next to heat lamps in stores.)
To avoid burns, do not use any heat source on areas that are insensitive or where circulation is severely restricted; while you are sleeping; or if you are diabetic – you might not feel the damage.
Their use also should be avoided near areas where you’ve had surgery. To prevent burning yourself, test the devices before touching them to your skin. And never combine thermotherapy with topical liniments or salves for back pain treatment.
Braces and Corsets For Lower Back Pain Relief
Nonprescription back braces and corsets can provide helpful support and prevent back strain by keeping the wearer from bending at the waist. Neck collars, too, can restrict movement and relieve pressure on sensitive nerves during recovery from an acute attack of upper back pain. Similar, supportive belts are recommended to pregnant women who are suffering from sacroiliac pain.
But whether the solid brace or the flexible corset, use these devices sparingly: long-term use can actually lead to dependency and, if worn long enough, to weaker, atrophied back muscles.
I like back braces very much but only for one to two hours. They provide support for lower back pain relief and a reminder of good posture, but only if you put them on immediately before an activity such as lifting. In the long run, corsets and braces can be more harmful than helpful. They do provide some joint stability, but they’re not a long-term panacea for healing back pain.