Backache and Stiff Neck

January 24, 2008

Your back is sore, or you wake up with a stiff neck. Simple self-care techniques can help relieve these common problems. But for chronic or severe pain, see your doctor first.

Facts About Back & Neck Aches

Back and neck aches can be caused by sleeping on a soft mattress, muscle strain, poor posture, using the wrong kind of chair, the effects of car or other accidents, stress and kidney or disc problems. A muscle may be in spasm, a ligament may be stretched, or a nerve may be irritated.

Daily Self-care

To lessen mild back or neck pain, sleep on your side with knees bent or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Choose a firm mattress, and a pillow which is not so thick that your neck bends. Stress often causes back and neck pain. Learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing to relieve the pain. If you work at a desk, make sure your chair is comfortable. Specially designed back cushions can help. Your desk, computer and work surface should be at a comfortable height. Take short stretch breaks every half hour. Learn to lift properly, by bending your knees and not your back. Avoid wearing high heels or keeping your wallet in a hip pocket; both can throw the back out of alignment.

Self Care For Injuries

Ice reduces swelling following an injury. After 24 hours of repeated ice treatments, apply either ice or damp heat (such as whirlpool bath or waterproof heating pad wrapped in a damp washcloth). Mild, gentle exercise increases circulation and can relieve pain. To avoid injury, check with your doctor or physical therapist, who can also teach you special back or neck exercises.

Call Your Doctor If…

  • there is extreme pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in a leg or foot
  • recurring pain
  • injury on the job
  • 102 degree F. or higher fever
  • frequent or unusual urination
  • pain that lasts longer than one week
  • pain that goes down your leg

For mild back or neck pain, self-care can be a relief. Exercises, proper lifting techniques, a firm mattress, and applying ice can all make a big difference in your flexibility and comfort.

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