Get Your ‘Head’ in the Game When Back/Neck Pain Stress You Out
Most people experience back or neck pain at some point in their lives, but when sudden-onset pain keeps you from work, family involvement and/or the activities you enjoy, it is time to take fast action.
1. Seek assistance from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation’s Rapid Relief Program, which offers physician and physical therapy services, as well as diagnostic services, all in one location and within 24-48 hours.
2. Think about how you think about your pain.
- Research shows that when we catastrophize our pain, or think that we are helpless due to pain, we actually increase pain and decrease our capacity to manage it effectively. Keeping a “Yes I Can” attitude can make a huge difference in recovery.
- Alignment is important, but when our bodies hurt, it is hard to practice good posture. Even if we cannot get fully aligned without discomfort (physical therapy can help with that!), we can visualize being aligned. Focus on all the muscles and bones doing their job, and stay as active as possible. Following through on your physical therapy-prescribed home exercises also will help promote healing.
- Do you think of your back as weak or vulnerable to injury? Your back is designed to support your body. When we have strong muscles and good alignment, painful backs can return to health.
- How is your mood? When we feel depressed or anxious, our immune system does not work very well, so it takes longer to heal. Find things to do that you enjoy, get good rest, eat well and seek assistance from a professional if you cannot kick the ‘happy neurons’ back into gear.
- How is your stress level? Do you have a lot going on in your life? Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Believe it or not, speeding up and pushing through only get you so far. Slowing down, taking long, slow, deep breaths and stopping to notice beauty in nature, things, people or experiences for which you are grateful can make a difference in how you manage pain and promote healing.
- Pain relief is not all about better living through chemistry. Research shows that opioid use for the short-term may be okay, but when it becomes longer-term use (more than 30 days), opioids actually increase our pain, rather than decreasing it. Consult with your prescribing physician and use medications sparingly.
- Avoid keeping a ‘pain diary’ and logging your pain. Such activities keep our thoughts focused on the pain, which can actually increase pain perception. Instead, keep a ‘gratitude diary,’ or notes about when you feel less pain.
- Think about prevention. Pay attention when you are moving, lifting and even sitting. Be sure you are using good body mechanics (physical therapy can teach you this!). Staying aware, or mindful, helps us better manage our bodies, our thoughts and emotions so that we can function at our best.