The first step in coping with chronic back pain or neck pain is to get a comprehensive medical evaluation and an accurate diagnosis. Pain is often a warning sign that something is wrong and needs medical attention.
Once you have a diagnosis and are receiving proper medical attention, focus on how you can use non-medical treatments to enhance your back pain management regimen. We have a few ideas to help. Not all techniques work for everyone, but they are non-invasive and inexpensive (or free) to try.
Include specific coping techniques as part of your daily routine
Whatever your medical condition, there are a number of methods to help cope with the chronic pain. All of these techniques make use of four types of skills, including:
- Deep muscle relaxation
- Distracting your attention away from pain signals
- Thinking about images or sounds that are pleasant to you
- Attaining detachment and distance.
Several techniques are so simple they can be done anywhere, anytime—during breakfast, during your morning commute, etc. For example, silent counting is a good way to deal with chronic pain episodes. You might count breaths, tiles in the floor, or even mental images.
Another example is sensory splitting, in which you divide a sensation into parts. For example, if the pain feels hot or tingling to you, focus on the heat or tingling and not on the hurting.
- For an in-depth discussion on sensory splitting Chronic Pain Coping Techniques.
Connect with others who have chronic pain
While not for everyone, many people feel better when they can talk with others who are experiencing similar challenges. If you don't have a friend who can adequately relate to your situation, you can connect online through message boards. This will not necessarily take away your chronic back pain, but it can do wonders for your emotional health. Others in your situation may also have helpful experiences or insights to share with you. HealthRcovered.com has a very active Back Pain Forum and Facebook page.
Relax and strengthen with yoga
Although no single treatment works for everyone, many aspects of yoga and pilates make them ideal for treating back and neck pain. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga just twice a week for 8 weeks make significant gains in strength, flexibility, and endurance. All three gains are an essential part of most back pain treatment programs. Moreover, the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga induce a relaxation response that decreases pain.
Eat right and get enough sleep
Good nutrition can aid your healing process. Your diet should include adequate protein as a source of the building blocks of soft tissue healing. Additionally, fresh fruit and vegetables supply the vitamins and trace elements necessary for effective healing. A vitamin supplement may also be helpful.
Sleep is extremely important for the body to heal.
One of the best ways to help you sleep is to create physical weariness through active exercise. Chronic inactivity does not create a need for the deep sleep that is so important for physical and emotional healing.
- See Guidelines for Successful Recovery from Low Back Pain and Easy Exercise Program for Low Back Pain Relief
Having trouble sleeping? We have many articles on insomnia. You can get started here.
Stretch your hamstrings
One of the simplest things you can do to help keep your lower back healthy is to stretch your hamstrings (the large muscle in the back of your thighs). Tight hamstrings are associated with lower back pain. Your hamstring stretching routine should include applying even pressure to lengthen the hamstring muscle for 30-45 seconds at a time, one to two times each day.
- For hamstring stretching options, see Specific Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief or Hamstring Exercises for Low Back Pain Relief Video
When coping with a back condition, we encourage you to take care of yourself and include non-medical activities along with medical treatments to enhance your physical and emotional strength and manage the pain. Find some type of exercise and stretching that works for you and take time to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle to the extent that you can.