Moving shouldn’t be a pain in the back!

Moving shouldn’t be a pain in the back!

Spring is moving season for many. Whether picking your child up from college or moving to a new home, thousands of people will be loading trucks with furniture and boxes soon.  And plenty of those folks will be wincing from back pain at the end.

You can injure your back by incorrectly lifting a heavy item or by twisting or leaning in the wrong direction. Back pain is one of the most common health problems we face.

But what exactly happens when your back is injured? And what’s the best treatment?

health enews asked Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, to answer some common questions about back pain and how to avoid injuries.

What actually happens when people “throw out their back?”
This figure of speech means a person has suffered a sudden and severe pain in their back.  Causes can vary but range from muscle spasm, worsening arthritis, fracture or even ruptured disc.

What’s the difference between a sprained back and a strained back?
Sprains and strains of the back can cause similar signs and symptoms, but involve different parts of the body. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments — the tough bands of tissue that connect one bone to another.  A strain is a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon. A tendon is a fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

Which is more common, upper or lower back pain?
Lower back pain is the most common type of back pain. It’s also the most common type of general pain — experienced by one in four Americans annually, It’s the most frequent cause of disability for people under age of 45.

When should someone with back pain see a doctor?
You should call your physician if the pain is severe and does not improve with over-the-counter medication and rest. If your pain is associated with trouble urinating, weakness, numbness in your legs, fever or unintentional weight loss, these symptoms could signal a serious problem that requires immediate treatment.

Do you have any suggestions for home remedies?
Rest initially is very helpful. But keep in mind that bed rest for more than a couple of days can make your back pain worse.  Medications that can reduce pain and swelling and include acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.

Is it better to use ice or heat to treat the pain?
Actually both can work. A heating pad can reduce pain and stiffness. Ice can help reduce pain and swelling.

What is your best advice to people who need to lift heavy items?
If at all possible, avoid lifting heavy items. But if you need to, keep this guidance in mind:

  1. As you go to lift the item, tighten your stomach muscles and stand straight and tall, keeping your back as straight as possible.
  2. Make sure to bend your knees and when grabbing the piece you’re lifting and hold it firmly with one hand on either side of it in a balanced fashion.
  3. Use your leg muscles to raise your body to a standing position while lifting the object off the floor at the same time.
  4. Lift slowly, not with a sudden jerk, upward. Keep the item close to your torso, using your body to help balance the object.
  5. Always have someone help you by leading the way or by sharing in the lifting duties.

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About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.