There are a few great tools you can use to help keep back pain at bay at home before coming in to see us.
A foam roller is a cheap and effective tool. It is used for mid to lower or mid to upper back pain. You place the roller under your back around the bra line area and lay down on it. Flexing your chin down and crossing your arms in front of your body, you slowly begin to roll.
“For those of you that bake, you’ve got a thing of dough and you are using a rolling pin and as you roll back and forth over the dough, what does it do? It lengthens the dough, it makes it longer. When a muscle is hurting, a lot of times it’s in a spasm state, a shortened state that is causing pain. A foam roller’s job is to lenghten the muscle which will help limit the spasms and pain.”
This muscle stimulator can help buy you some time before you get relief at the office with an adjustment. You attach small pads to the painful area and the device delivers small, electrical impulses that can distract the nervous system preventing the body from transmitting pain signals. Usually the unit has different levels so you can pick the right one for your pain.
Theragun or Massage Gun
This device provides a deep massage to the affected area. This device can be great for soft tissue issues giving some pain relief. These massages let you pick the specific speed you would like. To use, go slowly over agitated muscles and sore areas. Be mindful about how long you are using it and limit to only a few minutes.
A pull-up bar or really anything you can hang on can provide a great stretch to your spine. Be mindful if you have shoulder pain. They also sell hooks that you can put your elbows through to take tension off those shoulders. Hang until you feel the deep stretch. Do not use longer than a few minutes.
You spend many hours sleeping so it’s important to have the right support for your head, neck and spine. Sleeping on your side or back is best. We get asked a lot about the right kind of pillow to purchase and we recommend a pillow that’s comfortable and keeps your spine in line with your head in a neutral position. To help prevent neck or back pain while sleeping, Dr. Dooley and Dr. O’Bryan both agree it’s changing up your head positioning and even changing your pillow every couple of days.
Gels and creams such as Biofreeze and Icy Hot can help alleviate short term muscle pain. It’s a topical analgesic that contains menthol. It can help reduce inflammation because it mimics cold therapy and it’s also similar to the TENS unit where it distracts the pain receptors in the body so you don’t feel it as much.
Heat is going to be more beneficial in loosening up tight muscles or spasms. Heat can be used for chronic based conditions or issues you have had longer than 2 weeks. Moist or damp heat is more beneficial than surface heat. Think hot tub or bath. It gets deeper into the muscle. Dr. Dooley and Dr. O’Bryan recommend no longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Ice should be used more acutely or used on an injury that just happened. This can help prevent inflammation from building. Sprained ankles or a bumped head are some examples of where ice is helpful. It can decrease pain and increase range of motion.
Dr. Dooley and Dr. O’Bryan did an entire podcast episode on this topic: