In the wake of COVID-19, many of us are working from home. Yes, your living room sofa may be very comfortable to sit and work on. But it can never compare with the proficient workstations in your office. Who knew COVID-19 would make work from home an indefinite solution. The lockdowns may not have given you a chance to buy an ergonomic working table or chair, either. So, if you are suffering from back and neck pain, you do not get the blame.
Pandemic or no pandemic, did you know back and neck pain ranks among the top five disabling disorders in the U.S? They are one of the major causes of chronic pain and disability. 60-80% of the adults suffer from back pain while 20-70% experience neck pain some time in their lives.
For a condition this prevalent, it is vital to know the causes and management to not fall behind in your daily routines.
The deal about back and neck pain
Neck pain, if left unchecked, can lead to headaches and fatigue. It can also give rise to irritability, mood swings, and depression in the long run. Very rarely, neck pain advances to cause numbness or your arms and hands. If that happens, we recommend seeing a doctor as it might indicate a serious condition.
Back pain typically occurs in the mid and lower back. Ignoring back pain affects posture and physique, which may cause pain in the lower limb down to your feet. Like neck pain, back pain may progress to cause weakness and numbness in the leg. Back pain with fever, redness or swelling in the back, or bladder control problems are red flags.
Back and neck pain is often overlooked as a subtle issue. Most cases resolve within a few days to weeks. Yet, if the pain does not disappear with over-the-counter medicines and home remedies, seek medical help.
Causes of back and neck pain
According to research, repetitive movements, bad posture, and staying in the same position are the root causes of musculoskeletal disorders. It is particularly true about staying in one position while doing repetitive movements. For example, a desk job. So it should not come as a surprise why back and neck pain is so common.
Here are some of the most common causes of back and neck pain:
- Overwork involving the muscles of the neck or back
- Improper lifting of heavy loads
- Muscle tension, spasms, and strains due to poor posture while working or sleeping
- Trauma or injury to muscles or ligaments of the neck and back due to accidents or athletic activity
- Fractures of vertebrae
- Obesity and weight gain
- Poor muscle tone
- Abnormal growth as bony spurs
Back and neck pain may result as a secondary cause of some diseases like:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Degeneration of the cervical disc (spondylosis)
- Ruptured or slipped disc (disc hernia)
- Spinal stenosis
- Infections like meningitis
- Congenital disabilities
- Tumors and cancer of the spine
Home-based remedies to relieve back and neck pain
Back and neck pain often gets relief with some rest and does not last more than a few weeks. Over-the-counter pain relievers as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help. Since these medicines have their side effects, it is better to try some home remedies.
- Apply cold and hot compress alternatively for the first few days. A 20-minute session of each should suffice pain. After cold compress, apply heat compress via hot water bottle or heat pad. Taking hot baths also helps.
- Massaging the area also caters to relieving the neck and back pain. Use olive oil or warm mustard oil.
- Use topical pain relievers as creams containing capsaicin and menthol. Your doctor may prescribe you High-dose capsaicin patches. It is observed that capsaicin patches with an 8% dosage effectively relieve low back pain of neuropathic origin.
- A homeopathic remedy Arnica also caters to neck pain relief and back pain relief. It is available as an over-the-counter topical gel and cream.
- Treat the underlying cause of back and neck pain:
- If the cause is bad posture, adopt proper posture. A workstation with an ergonomic desk, chair, keyboard, mouse, etc. is a must.
- If lifting heavy weights is the problem, learn how to lift loads properly.
- Changing your position also helps when spending long hours at your work desk. Move, stretch, and walk a bit.
- Using special neck pillows while sleeping also delivers neck pain relief. Sleeping on your side or back is recommended.
- Shedding some pounds definitely helps achieve back pain relief.
- If your back or neck is injured, take a break from physical activity that may worsen your pain.
- Limit screen time. If it is unavoidable, adjust the screens of your computer at your eye level.
- De-stress yourself by doing something fun. Music, meditation, a walk, or a brief break; whatever makes you happy.
- Sleep also aids neck pain relief and back pain relief by relieving stress. Our muscles relax during the deep sleep phase.
- Exercising daily help strengthen your muscles and improve the tone. It, thereby prevents injuries, improves posture, and relieves stress at the same time. Yoga and Tai-chi are some low-endurance exercises that stretch and relax your muscles.
- Stretch your body; slowly and gradually. Do not use sudden movements. Here are some great stretches for your neck and back:
- Sit on a chair or some hard surface. Place your feet on the ground firmly. Relax your shoulders and let your arms hand down by your side. With your palms facing inwards and your arms extended, bring your arms parallel to the ground, then move them towards your shoulders and over your head. Do not bend your arms or lift your shoulders. Keep this position for three deep breaths, and then bring your arms back to their starting position. Repeat at least ten times.
- Sit on a chair, place your feet firmly on the ground, and keep your shoulders relaxed. Let your arms dangle by your sides. Beginning at the right side, grab your seat with right and. Tilt our left ear to your left shoulder and stretch to your comfort level. At the end of the stretch, take a deep breath, hold and release your breath as you bring your head to the starting position. Do the stretch ten times on the left side and followed by doing it on the right side.
Neck and back pain are everyday issues but are often overlooked because of our fast-paced lifestyles. Addressing the underlying cause most often relieves acute neck and back pain. Home remedies are usually safe and effective. However, consult your physician before trying any herbal product or if stretching makes the condition worse. For chronic pain lasting more than six weeks, seek professional help.