RV Expert Center
Finding Relief from Back Pain
By Diane Barnet, R. N.
Back pain is caused by strain or injury to the muscles, ligaments or discs
that support and cushion our spinal vertebrae. We have 24 vertebrae in three sections—the upper (cervical), middle (thoracic) and lower (lumbar) areas of our spines. Back pain can be dull and long-term (chronic) or sudden and sharp in onset (acute), perhaps occurring only with certain activities.
Low back pain caused by muscle strain can make it challenging to sit or
drive for long stretches of time. In addition, degenerative disc disease and osteoporosis, conditions involving deterioration and thinning of the bones from wear and tear, can cause discomfort from bone rubbing on bone.
A herniated disc protrudes between two vertebrae, putting pressure on a nerve root in the spinal canal. This can cause sciatica, an irritation of the sciatic nerve that radiates down the back of the leg. Numbness, tingling and weakness can sometimes result.
Conditions contributing to back pain include being overweight, poor posture, lack of exercise, smoking, stress and long-term use of some medications, such as corticosteroids.
Back pain may disappear on its own after a few days or weeks. Symptom relief measures include rest, applying heat for twenty minutes a few times a day, gentle stretching exercises and avoiding bending or twisting the back. Cushions, supports, braces, collars and comfortable, low-heeled shoes can help alleviate discomfort.
Rest is important but long-term bed rest is not recommended because it can lead to stiffness. A firm mattress is essential. Sleeping on your side with the upper leg bent at the knee and a pillow between the knees takes pressure off the spine.
Make sure you get enough calcium, Vitamin D and phosphates, all of which help build and maintain healthy bones. They are found in dairy products and dark green vegetables, salmon, sardines and tofu.
Most of us will experience back pain at some time, but being aware of the symptoms and treatment may prevent complications. When pain persists, medical advice is appropriate but always get a second opinion, especially if surgery is suggested.
* On the road, stop every couple of hours to get out and walk around for
a few minutes.
* Sit up straight, align your shoulders, pull in your stomach and change position regularly.
* Avoid lifting heavy objects, but if you must, bend at the knees and squat down rather than bending at the waist.