undue backpain
October 14, 2006 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Back Pain - It's a weekend, and my chiropractor only works tue/thurs in my area filter. I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I went to the gym for the first time in 2 mos last wednesday (I had been going religiously m/w/f for 8 months working up my running.. i was doing 10 minute miles for 30 minutes before..) because I broke my toe at a company event. I did a decent workout (2.2 mi in 30 min, rest, stretch, then free weights). I felt fine afterwards - no pain, no problems at all.

I figured i would take a few days to recover, and not push it, and today (Saturday) went up to the local park's fitness track. I started jogging about .25 mi, mostly downhill, and realized I was going the wrong way (had never been there) and wanted to go back to the start. So I turned around, started walking back up the incline (not horrid, maybe 5% incline) and my back (right up between my sholder blades) felt like someone stabbed me (sharp shooting pain). I was in the midst of starting to jog, so i continued to do so wincing up to where I had started.

I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I have had a vicious back ache in the area since, and any movement (arms, body, twisting, etc) hurts. Just sitting is painful.

This happened years ago, and the chiropractor blamed it on poor posture. That asside, what can I do *now* to calm it? Its almost tear-causingly painful, and I dont think I am going to find a way to calm it to sleep.

Ideas? (I will love anyone who helps!! I will send gifts!)
posted by SirStan to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Right now all you can do is 800-1000mg of ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, works better on muscle pain than Tylenol or aspirin) and take lots of warm showers (and light stretching, even simultaneously done) to loosen up the muscle. You have an acute back spasm, and one of the muscles in your back is clenched tightly as an injury mitigation measure. A muscle relaxer, like Flexeril, is a much better solution but is only available by prescription.
posted by dendrite at 10:47 PM on October 14, 2006

Add to the asprin/ibuprofen, an ice pack -20 on 20 off. Ice (like iburprofen) is an anti-inflammatory, and will do wonders on giving you relief.
posted by filmgeek at 10:54 PM on October 14, 2006

I'll revise: I agree with the ice pack treatment, skip the warm showers for 24-36 hours. Since the injury happened today, ice is best for keeping the inflammation to a minimum. After the body's initial inflammation is over in a day or so, then you want to start using warm showers and heat packs to try to loosen it up.
posted by dendrite at 11:05 PM on October 14, 2006

The muscle relaxer methacarbamol is available over the counter in Canada, your profile doesn't say where you are.

A lot of people find that alternating hot and cold packs works well for some reason.

Probably the best thing you can do acutely is cough up the $40-80 and get a massage, that should be easy to arrange on a weekend. Maybe your gym has massage practitioners.

Also try to stretch out your back and legs. What you describe sounds like back spasm. Those muscles are really strong and when contracted are really painful. It will take persistence and work to stretch that out. Most people don't realize that the muscles in the hamstrings and buttocks have a lot to do with the back, so you really need to work those areas, too.

Finally, I hate to say it because I hate prescribing it, but Vicodin is a god send in a situation like this. Maybe you know someone who can hook you up or go to an ER (though Drs these days might look at you suspiciously if you ask for it).

Good luck to you. You will get over this in a few days. This exact scenario happened to me once. For the first day, I literally couldn't get off the floor (thank god for my wife, wireless internet, and cell phones). My back has never really been the same since, but with careful, persistent stretching before and after each run I have been able to stay pretty active (I ran my first half marathon last weekend!).
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:22 PM on October 14, 2006

Have you tried a doctor or physiotherapist?
posted by tomble at 12:11 AM on October 15, 2006

echoing tomble here, try and get into a physio.
posted by cholly at 1:22 AM on October 15, 2006

Do some press ups. My googlefu is off, but I found this site to describe them. Basically, you do a push up leaving your hips on the ground and your lower back relaxed which puts your spine into a reverse curve and in repetition helps gently push a bulging disk back into alignment. Also, high doses of ibuprofen and ice, no heat for a day or two.
posted by caddis at 1:52 AM on October 15, 2006

A physio will do you much more good than a chiro, because the physio will figure out what's actually causing your pain and address the cause, while the chiro will just blame it on subluxation or some other imaginary crap.

I've always found naproxen to be a better quick-fix for acute muscle spasm than ibuprofen. Neithe is something you want to be eating longterm, though. Get thee to a physio.
posted by flabdablet at 2:24 AM on October 15, 2006

Not to be alarmist, but sudden onset intense pain in the back, or upper back can be a warning sign of heart problems. If you head to an Emergency Room, or urgent care center, you're going to be screened for that, which is not a bad idea on a weekend, even if you are sent away with a prescription for pain killlers and muscle relaxants, and advice to take a couple days off.

If your problem is actually back muscle spasms, massage treatment that works on trigger point release can be quite effective. Much is made of such techniques by licensed massage therapists, but considerable symptomatic relief can be obtained from lay persons willing to help, if someone can simply press the heels of their hands on the painful muscles with moderate to heavy pressure for 60 to 90 seconds, and then release for 2 minutes. The additional pressure may at first be more painful, but it decreases blood flow to the cramped, spasming muscle fibers, which therefore fatigue and are forced to relax entirely. The release of pressure (after the involuntary relaxation from circulatory cutoff) causes fresh blood to quickly return to the area, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, which may go back into spasm in a couple of minutes. But continued cycles of simple pressure and release, coupled with deep breathing, will generally stop acute spasming in a matter of from 5 to 20 cycles, with symptomatic relief of up to several hours. Works well in conjunction with muscle relaxants and sleep aids, too, to promote sleep onset.
posted by paulsc at 3:57 AM on October 15, 2006

Assume the "gatch" position: lie on your back on the floor, with your knees raised at a 45-degree angle. This will take pressure off your sore back. (This is recommended by orthopedic surgeons.)
posted by Carol Anne at 5:33 AM on October 15, 2006

To echo flabdablet: Please go to a doctor, not a chiropractor, about this ASAP.
posted by limeonaire at 9:55 AM on October 15, 2006

Yes, see a doctor, they'll probably prescribe a Physical Therapist. After 3 years of chiropractic care, I finally went to a Doctor and after 2 months in physical therapy, my muscles in my back are strong enough to keep my back from getting out of alignment in the first place.

Chiropractics aren't a long-term fix, whatever they might tell you. A PT will be able to target certain muscle groups to make them strong and correct your posture.

Stretch, then ice... The stretch I've been prescribed is called the Prayer Stretch.... If you're already limber, put a pillow underneath your knees.

Get one of the really big icepacks, and put it as close to the incoming air in your freezer as possible (flat, not folded up)... Lay on your back, on the ice pack for AT LEAST 15 minutes(the gatch position mentioned above)... it's hard, it feels like your flesh is freezing, and it is, but it's a good thing!
posted by hatsix at 11:15 AM on October 15, 2006

You can also do some trigger point therapy at home. This might be more helpful after you're a little less sore, but Tennis Ball Acupressure is a good explanation of relieving trigger point pain issues.

Back spasms are hell. Just keep swimming, SirStan.
posted by lilithim at 11:34 AM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Short term: See a doctor (not a chiro), take a muscle relaxant and bed rest.
Long term: Do what the doctor and PT tells you. Stretching and strengthening exercises most likely. Pay attention to differences in your gait from your broken toe. Often a painful injury can cause you to compensate by slightly changing the way you walk and move, and result in strange injuries to other parts of your body.
posted by Manjusri at 12:59 PM on October 15, 2006

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