Nearly everyone knows someone whose life is limited by back pain. It is the leading cause of disability in the world, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
If someone in your family is suffering back pain, there is a lot you can do for them – to alleviate their pain, ease their daily life and help find a long-term solution.
Address the Source, Not the Symptoms
The first order of business for anyone with a family member who suffers from chronic back pain is to help find the source and determine what therapies might improve or eliminate the condition.
Encouraging your family member to see a chiropractor – a doctor who treats orthopedic issues with non-surgical interventions – is the single most important support you can provide. Whereas medical doctors focus on curing symptoms with drugs and surgery, chiropractic doctors address the underlying condition of the spine and surrounding structures.
Find a chiropractor who works with physical therapists, massage therapists and other practitioners whose expertise may be relevant to your loved one’s condition. Expect the chiropractor to examine your family member and do some diagnostic tests, like x-rays, before creating a therapy plan.
Make sure you and the person suffering with the pain understand the problem and recommended therapies.
Become Their Workout Buddy
If the chiropractor has recommended stretches and exercises, encourage your family member to do them. Exercise with them if that motivates them. Exercises that gently strengthen the core muscles of the stomach, back, glutes and hips are generally excellent for people with back pain. Yoga and Pilates offer many benefits, including strengthening the core.
After that, there are ways to make life easier for the person living with pain.
First, assign new roles to everyone in the household as necessary. Someone with back pain should not be lifting or moving heavy objects. If they are the family car mechanic, or light bulb changer, swap out those roles with someone else. Assign them chores that require more mental lifting, like balancing the checkbook or researching the next vacation.
Find alternatives to activities that lead to further back strain. If flying hurts their back, drive instead, or vice versa. Break up trips so their back has an opportunity to heal when travelling.
Reorganize your home layout to accommodate them. If they have trouble negotiating stairs, bring commonly-used items to the first floor. Use pillows and other back supports to ensure that sitting and sleeping aren’t making the condition worse.
If your family member does a lot of desk work, consider finding ergonomic solutions for them. They would likely benefit from a standing desk, or a chair-desk-computer-phone arrangement that is ergonomically correct.
Don’t forget diet’s impact on our health. Healthy eating, rich in vegetables, fruits and nuts, and low in processed foods, helps the body re-nourish itself. Encourage them to eat nutritiously. If you’re the family cook, keep the meals healthy.
Finally, encourage them to be patient and committed to a rehab plan before jumping to stronger drugs or surgical alternatives. Drugs and surgery are quick, simple and often wrong. Drugs provide temporary relief and back surgery has a poor record of success.
Strong family support is an indicator for the success of any medical intervention. Being there for your loved one can make a world of difference.