Dealing with back and neck pain
Even though it’s not what most back and neck pain sufferers want to hear, time is the best remedy for pain. According to Dr. Chris Zacko, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Penn State Hershey Spine Center, most of the time back and neck pain is just that — pain. And while it’s not meant to dismiss the severity of the pain, pain is usually not an indicator of something more serious. Time is usually the best healer.
“For chronic back and neck pain sufferers who experience a flare up, it will take about four days to a week for the pain to calm down. After that, it takes about two weeks for the pain to go away entirely,” said Dr. Zacko.
Dr. Zacko added that if the flare up lasts more than four to six weeks, you should see a doctor as it can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem.
Healing time for injuries
Healing time for an injury is different than chronic back or neck pain flare ups. An injury usually takes longer than a month to heal. If you’ve done something to the muscle, like a strain or tear, or if you have a herniated disc, it will take about six weeks for the pain to subside and eventually go away. Fractures to the back can take much longer than six weeks to heal.
“Typically, for injuries, it takes about two weeks for the person to realize their life will get back to normal and they will heal. Then two weeks after that, the pain lessens,” said Dr. Zacko.
Combine time and treatments to alleviate pain
As a supplement to time, people suffering from back or neck pain can focus on walking and moving around, doing stretches and exercises (insert link to video), and take over the counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.
“Walking gets you to stand up, and gets the muscles working and healing. At the same time, it strengthens your back and abdominal muscles,” said Dr. Zacko.
You might feel tempted to lie down and rest when you experience back pain, but staying somewhat active — like getting up and walking — is actually more therapeutic. When your pain subsides, focus on strengthening your back and abdominal muscles to avoid chances of another flare up in the near future.
When you should see a doctor right away
There are certain indicators that may suggest a more serious problem. For example, if you feel weakness, like “drop foot,” which is the inability or difficulty in moving the ankle and toes upwards. Other indicators are numbness, debilitating pain that makes it impossible to function as normal, or problems with your bowel, bladder or sexual functions, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you have a history of cancer or infection and experience back pain, or if your pain wakes you up at night, you should see your doctor right away.