Mitigating Backache
July 4, 2004 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I woke up with the most severe backache that I've ever had, probably caused by overexertion at the gym yesterday. The pain originates from my lower back, and more towards the sides and the center.

Does anyone have any advice on how to feel a bit better and salvage my Sunday?
posted by Mayor Curley to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
beer. Seriously, alcohol is a great muscle relaxant.
posted by Grod at 8:31 AM on July 4, 2004

Heating Pad, Ice, Ben-Gay, Ibuprofen?
posted by gramcracker at 8:48 AM on July 4, 2004

The most severe backache I've ever had, in my lower back towards the side and center, turned out to be a kidney stone when I finally dragged myself into the ER. Keep an eye on it.

If it's just plain old backache, do the obvious: take it easy, watch your posture, let the muscles recuperate, hydrate well.
posted by majick at 9:01 AM on July 4, 2004

1) "Thermacare"--those stick-on heat pads with the charcoal heat that's activated when you open the pouch. They're great. They last for hours, and you can apply the heat exactly where it best helps, without the cord, etc.

2) Ibuprofen--it's a muscle relaxant, and if your pain is really due to overexertion, this'll help.

3) _Tons_ of water, as much as you can stand. The pain is basically due to the build-up of various acids and compounds in your muscle tissue as it builds back up, and hydration helps you keep those diluted.

4) That herbal stuff I can't remember right now. (I'm on vacation, and I'm not near my medicine cabinet. Sorry.) Seriously, though, the last time my wife had a bad backache, my dad was visiting and had also strained his back. I went to the local drugstore, which has a real homeopathic/herbal bent, and they gave me some stuff they swore by.
As I recall, it had a bunch of minerals in it, as well as glucosamine/chondroitin (which may help long-term, but aren't going to do anything for you today). One of the main ingredients was actually kava-kava, which has had a health warning associated with it, so make of that what you will, but my wife and my dad both opted to take it, and said it really seemed to help. I'm sure there's a bunch of different variations on this same idea, and they're all likely to be similar, but this one was in a blue box, with kind of concentric circles on it, as I remember.
posted by LairBob at 9:34 AM on July 4, 2004

I've always heard ice for the first 24-48 hours after an overuse injury, then heat. Ibuprofen's your friend now, too, but don't overdo it (or take on an empty stomach) if you're inclined to stomach upset.
posted by scody at 9:58 AM on July 4, 2004

Try and go for a walk, even if you have to take Robaxacet or something to be able to move. Getting things moving and getting your heart rate up a bit will help. The old "take it easy" advice is no longer given by most medical professionals, the less you move, the longer it will take to get better. Be sensible, don't overdo it, but do get moving.
posted by biscotti at 10:03 AM on July 4, 2004

I've heard that bed rest is actually bad for a strained back, which is why back trouble can be so traumatic. You can't just sleep it off like you can a flu. I agree that the 400-600 mg of Ibuprofin a couple times a day is a good idea. Hot showers can really help. Try to move your back gently around its limits while you're in the shower, that's when your back is as loose as it's going to be. Good luck.
posted by squirrel at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2004

Moments like this are the reason why I always keep a stash of pain pills leftover from dentist appointments and the like.
posted by mischief at 10:56 AM on July 4, 2004

posted by Grod at 12:30 PM on July 4, 2004

also yoga -- do it at whatever intensity you feel comfortable with. sun salutations are good to start with. they shouldn't hurt though, if you feel a sharp pain, you might want to see a doctor.
posted by headless at 1:44 PM on July 4, 2004

Make sure you stretch properly in future also. Stretching the hamstrings is good for taking pressure off the lower back. One method of doing this is to lie down on your back and press the heel of one leg against a post while keeping the rest of your body flat, then alternating legs, 3x 20 seconds for each. There are other ways. Can be worth doing this a few times a week even if you're not getting to the gym as it will help your flexibility. I'd also second the yoga, it's helped me a fair amount.
posted by biffa at 1:49 AM on July 5, 2004

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