We see many aches and pains in over-60s during this time of year – whether they are suffering from ‘holiday back’ (usually due to an uncomfortable holiday bed) or have tweaked a muscle playing beach cricket.
Unfortunately many people delay their recovery by making some common and avoidable mistakes. Some key pain mistakes include:
Ice and heat can work wonders for relieving pain, but some people become too devoted to one, while ignoring the other option – this is a mistake because you may be an ice person but there are times when heat will be more effective, and vice versa.
A common mistake for both heat and ice is overdoing it by applying treatment for too long – ice and heat should be used for no more than 20 minutes at a time. People commonly end up with ice burns by applying the ice directly to the skin – using a light towel helps. Using heat for too long can also burn the skin.
Generally, the rule is that if an injury is hot to the touch, use ice; if it’s cold but there is still swelling then use heat. You may develop a personal preference so be prepared to try one or the other and stick with it for the first few weeks.
Research shows less movement such as bed rest is the worst possible thing for back pain. We are made to move and when we don’t, problems emerge. If we restrict movement, we lose flexibility, our joints stiffen up and our muscles contract, which leads to more pain.
Moving a little as often as possible is key. Even if your movement is quite restricted, it’s important to keep moving within tolerable pain levels. By moving a little, often, you will gradually increase your range of movement.
Once pain subsides it’s important to keep moving and exercising because the activity helps prevent back pain returning. Certain exercises and stretching routines can make a big difference. You may also benefit from hot and cold packs, from deep breathing, and from lumbar supports such as corsets or braces. Everybody’s back pain challenges will be different and may require different solutions but there are many options.
People should expect some difference, or at least a constructive plan for change, in three sessions or fewer with a physiotherapist. If there isn’t an improvement people should be encouraged to try another practitioner.
A big mistake is becoming reliant on drugs for pain relief, rather than addressing the true cause of the pain. Research shows anti-inflammatory drugs deliver little benefit and can have serious side effects.
To understand the true source of pain we need to test what you can and cannot do, and find the source of your problem – fix the source, fix the problem. The underlying cause may not be what you expect. It may be posture, an injury, or it may be referred pain from a problem in your body elsewhere.
Finding the underlying cause is not possible in a pill packet – it takes time and experience.