Ahhh, the Christmas holiday is over and it’s time to put away all the decorations. Sometimes the task can seem daunting especially if you have six trees to put away at work! But, let’s channel that positive attitude, put on some cheerful music and grab a coworker to make the task more enjoyable.
Tree number one. It looks harmless enough. The coworker and I give the tree one more admiring look and reflect on how one of the residents in our care facility so carefully placed each ornament. I bend over to remove the first ornament. Yes, the very first one and yikes! There’s a sharp pain, then a rapid succession of pain moving toward my spine! “No, I don’t need a chair” I tell my compassionate colleague. I support my weight with my arms on a countertop and then relinquish. “I’m going to need that chair”.
It’s been five days now and my first day back to work. As I type this blog, there’s a warm pad at my back. What’s the take away from this common injury? Go home right away! I waited too long to get home and had to crawl up the steps into the house. Once home, lay on your back on the floor with legs elevated on a chair and ice on your back. Take anti-inflammatory medication but don’t be surprised if you don’t feel much relief. Alternate the ice pack with 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Once you’re able, move to a couch to lay down. Perhaps you’ll want to continue with ice or just rest. The next day (yes, I’m skipping the first night’s sleep because my mother taught me if I didn’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all) start to apply a heating pad. We didn’t own a pad and I waited until day three to use heat. Big mistake. A heating pad will become your best friend! Try alternating between ibuprofen and tylenol. That seems to help with pain.
As I was laying on the couch all day the second day, I kept receiving text messages from caring friends and family and there was a overwhelming commonality. Go see a chiropractor! But I didn’t have a slipped disc or need an adjustment. I had a pulled muscle! However, after the eighth message I felt compelled to stop being so hardheaded and reach out to a chiropractor and I’m glad I did. After just two adjustments I felt an improvement. I wasn’t pain free or walking, bending normally but there was some progress. I’ve since learned from the American Chiropractic Association website that “after an extensive study of all available care for low back problems, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality recommend that low back pain sufferers choose the most conservative care first. And it recommended spinal manipulation as the only safe and effective, drugless form of initial professional treatment for acute low back problems in adults. In addition, there is strong evidence that spinal manipulation for back pain is as effective as a combination of medical care and exercise, and moderate evidence that it is just as effective as prescription NSAIDS combined with exercise. This spoke volumes to me since I rarely take medication for pain. The ADA goes on to say that “the epidemic of prescription opioid overuse and abuse has also led many health groups to reconsider the value of a conservative approach to common conditions such as low-back pain.” Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and based on a review of randomized controlled trials and observational students, the ACP guidelines states that heat therapy, massage, acupuncture and spinal manipulation are good options for non-invasive, non-drug therapies for low back pain. The studies states that medicines like ibuprofen, muscle relaxants should only be used if the non-medication therapies provide no relief. However, they go on to state that research indicated limited pain relief with the medicinal approach as well. In my case, I did notice that medications provided little relief. However, the Salonpas patches and Biofreeze ointments seemed to have been helpful.
In summary, take immediate action to lay on the floor with ice. Use Salonpas and Biofreeze. Take an anti-inflammatory medication on day one but then try to go without meds and substitute chiropractic care instead. Do stretching exercises that your chiropractor will likely provide. Use a heating pad that provides moist heat. And try to move and stretch throughout the day, don’t just take this common injury lying down.