So, you thought you could dance—but you realized a little too late that you’re not Miley Cyrus, and you wound up throwing out your back (and a few choice words). Well, don’t panic. You likely haven’t seriously injured yourself—nine times out of ten, the culprit is a simple sprain-like injury to a muscle or ligament—and the pain should subside relatively quickly. In the meantime, here’s what you can do to minimize the hurt:
- Relax, lie down, and don’t move—but only for the first 48 hours after injury, at most. After that, it’s important to begin active recovery. Start slowly with stretching exercises and small movements—like bringing your knees into your chest or gently bending over at the waist—to avoid further injuring your back.
- Use cold therapy. Wrap up an ice pack—or a bag of frozen veggies—in a T-shirt or thin towel and apply it to the injured area for up to 20 minutes at a time. Cold is excellent for pain relief and can quickly reduce swelling by restricting blood flow. Once your pain has reduced, you’ll need to increase blood flow to aid your body’s natural healing process, so switch to a heating pad (using the same 20-minute intervals) after the first 24-48 hours.
- Take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen—or natural herbs, like ginkgo or rosemary. These anti-inflammatories work in conjunction with cold therapy to help relieve your pain.
Full recovery could take as long as two to four weeks, but if your pain lasts longer than a few days—or if you feel numbness or shooting pain—contact your physician to make sure you aren’t experiencing a more serious back or neurological issue. If you are, it could lead to severe—and possibly permanent—impairment.
Of course, the best advice I could give you is to prevent back pain in the first place (so maybe lay off the twerking). All jokes aside, if you suffer from chronic back pain—or if this is just one in a long list of back injuries you’ve suffered—talk to a physical therapist for more information on treatment options and prevention strategies.