I’ve now discovered three unique kinds of back pain (so far!) Being able to identify them is useful, as the kind of pain indicates the kind of treatment you can do at home to pretend you’re actually relieving it…
Note: I am not a doctor. Or a yogi. Or a massage therapist. This is just what I’ve learned...
This is no different than muscle pain in your arms or legs if you work-out hard, or pull something playing a sport. Its just that its in your back, so it feels like your entire body is suffering.
I’d describe muscle pain as a sort of throbbing. Its by far the lowest on the back-pain scale — so suck it up!
A fun variation on this is muscle spasms, where you’ll suddenly feel like you’re frozen for a second or two, or someone has quickly jabbed you with a cold knife. This may recur for awhile, but you’ll make it through the day.
Treatment: Stretching. Hot tub or just a hot bath. Alternate hot and cold for spasms. Take Advil.
I found out recently that its entirely possible to bruise your back — even without an impact. Over-extending yourself, especially if you have disc problems, can cause the joints to rub together and bruise. This pain is constant, worse than muscle pain, and it feels more piercing. Fortunately it doesn’t seem to last too long — provided you’re careful. Avoid stretching much until the pain subsides.
Treatment: Cold pack to dull the pain. Advil.
By far the worst kind of pain I’ve found yet. When it initially hits it comes on suddenly and severely like a sword stabbed deep into your back. On more than one occasion its dropped me, face-first, on the floor instantly. Following the slip or rupture, you’re in for days, or even weeks, of gradually subsiding, but severe pain.
Sometimes its possible to feel a slip coming on in advance. Like cracking your knuckle, you feel your back kind of pop out of place. If this happens (and you haven’t been floored yet) stop what you’re doing — for the next 3 days. Don’t lift anything (or anyone) and don’t try to live your normal life. Just rest your back, and resume gentle stretches once a day when you’re ready. Don’t sit for too long. Do NOT treat with heat! Avoid Advil or any other painkiller if you can — it will only mask the warning signals your back is giving you.
Treatment: If you do slip/rupture a disc, your only hope is lying flat on your back, and taking the minimum pain killers necessary. There is no escaping the punishment, and no medical work-around. You’re done — probably for at least a week. Anything you think you can do, other than lying in bed, will only lengthen your suffering.
Muscle pain can be prevented with strengthening exercises and stretching. Ensuring you have good posture throughout the day will do wonders. A hot tub, or a massage therapist can help you when you’re feeling tense. Similarly, bruising can be avoided by maintaining a healthy spine shape through stretches and posture — and avoiding over-exertion.
A slipped disc, however, will recur. If it happens once, it’ll happen again, and each time it happens the disc gets weaker and is more prone to slipping/rupturing. If this happens to you, even once, get help. Don’t soldier through. Don’t blame it on bad genes. Get your spine looked at — your body will begin adapting to the deformation in ways that are not necessarily healthy in the long term, and will only lead to more misery the next time your spouse wants to dig a vegetable garden!