Simple remedies for back, neck and shoulder pain

Sometimes the best remedy for everyday pains is the simplest. Here's a few ways to make pain disappear for common ailments.

Simple remedies for back, neck and shoulder pain

Back pain

  1. There's merit in that old joke: "Doc, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that." In other words, stop whatever you were doing when the pain flared.
  2. Don't take to bed for a week. A number of studies have shown that bed rest doesn't help and may even make matters worse. If you can, keep up your normal activities, unless they include a bench press.
  3. Although some doctors recommend taking an acetaminophen (Tylenol) for low back pain, it's not an anti-inflammatory and thus may not be as effective as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), which can quell the inflammation that's contributing to the pain. The sooner you take it, the better it will work and the less you may need in the end, so don't wait until you're doubled over or laid flat.
  4. If you've just hurt yourself, an ice pack applied to your back will make you feel better. The cold works by relieving any swelling and muscle spasms.
  5. Very basic stretching and strengthening moves designed for just after you've hurt your back can help you return to your everyday activities more quickly.
  6. If you have a fever, your pain gets worse or moves into your legs, or you have trouble urinating, see your doctor immediately. Other red flags include pain that just won't go away, even while you are resting, or pain so severe that you can't sleep.

Neck pain

  1. To relieve both pain and inflammation, take 200 to 400 milligrams of ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or 250 to 500 milligrams of naproxen (Aleve) twice daily; for pain, take 325 to 650 milligrams of acetaminophen (Tylenol) every four to six hours.
  2. An ice pack in a towel, resting against your neck for 20 minutes several times a day, will numb the pain and reduce inflammation. You can also alternate the cold pack with a muscle-relaxing heating pad or warm shower.
  3. Symptoms such as numbness or pain running down your shoulder, arms or legs are your signal to get to your doctor or an emergency room right away. You may have injured your spinal cord. You should also seek medical care if you have any change in your bladder or bowel habits, which may indicate that the neck pain is linked to a neurological problem.

Shoulder pain

  1. Whatever move you were making when the pain struck, stop it. Skip any heavy lifting and tomorrow's game of tennis. Generally speaking, keeping your hand at shoulder level or below will help you sidestep pain.
  2. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), 200 to 400 milligrams every four to six hours, or naproxen (Aleve), 250 to 500 milligrams twice daily, can help relieve the pain and inflammation.
  3. Place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the aching spot for 15 minutes, then take it off for 15 minutes. Repeat several times. Ice tamps down swelling and numbs pain. For chronic conditions, moist heat may be a better choice.

Muscle pain in the back, neck or shoulder can make it tough to move around, but taking quick action to reduce the inflammation can go a long way to getting you back to your routine quicker.

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