Check Up: His back is killing him

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August 27, 2018

Ricky is a middle-age man who recently spent some time lifting, carrying and emptying water from buckets.

He is now complaining of back pain, back stiffness and a swelling over his lower back. He is resting and taking Ibuprofen but is still feeling pain.

He said he can't afford to be laid up at all at this time. He asks Check Up what he should do.

Acute back pain can last from a few days to even a few weeks. Usually, the back pain is first felt just after lifting a heavy object, moving suddenly, sitting in one position for too long or after an accident.

The pain is caused by injury to the muscles and ligaments supporting the back, which causes back-muscle spasms or a strain or even tear in the muscles and ligaments.

Pain can have several presentations. It can be mild, or so severe you can barely move. It can feel burning, sticking, and tingling.

In some more serious conditions, the pain can radiate to the hip and leg, or even the foot bottom. If pain is associated with weakness to the legs, you need to see the doctor immediately.

Pain can be associated with bruising and swelling to the associated region.

The following measures can be taken to resolve low-back pain:

• Stop normal physical activities for a few days to help relieve symptoms and reduce any swelling in the painful area.

• Apply ice to the area at intervals for 48 to 72 hours, then use heat.

• Take over-the-counter pain killers such as Tylenol, Motrin or Advil.

• Sleep in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs to relieve back pressure.

• After a few days, get back to moving about as much as possible, with reduced activity, and without aggravating the condition. Prolonged bed rest is not recommended.

• Do not perform lifting activities for another month. Get help at work.

• If the pain persists, please see the doctor for tests and even referral for physical therapy, or to see the orthopaedic specialist.

• If there is weakness of legs, loss of bladder control, or preceding weight loss, this should be treated as an emergency to see the doctor.

We should all learn to lift properly. Spread your feet apart and stand close to the object to be lifted. Bend at the knees, not at the waist!

Hold the object as close to the body as possible and do not bend forward or twist while holding the object. Take the time to practise this proper position. Prevention is better than cure!

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