Help! I'm self-employed. I've hurt my back, and I've got to get back on the job right away. What can I do to return to my pre-injury level of activity?
First, don't panic. Keep breathing when you feel the pain or start to worry. Worry and stress have a way of increasing muscle tension, which won't help you out. Having said that, let's look at what the latest research has to say.
Experts advise a few days of rest after the initial injury, then activity and gentle exercise. A recent study from the United States Spine and Sport Foundation in California looked at the effects of heat and exercise together.
They used low-level heat wrap therapy along with a specific program of exercise. The results were very good. Patients had less pain and more function, returning to their pre-injury level of activity within a week. Heat and exercise together worked much better than either one alone.
Light-weight disposable heat wraps are available at department and drug stores. They are activated by exposure to the air and give constant low-levels of heat for up to eight hours. They are self-sticking so you can keep active and moving.
John M. Mayer, PhD, et al. Treating Acute Low Back Pain With Continuous Low-Level Heat Wrap Therapy and/or Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial. In The Spine Journal.
July/August 2005. Vol. 5. No. 4. Pp. 395-403.