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Dealing with pain is an important part of recovering and healing after experiencing a traumatic injury or sprain, or undergoing a surgical procedure. Aside from prescription pain management, there are a number of effective treatments that can be done at home to help with pain management and improve or speed up the healing process.

Dr. Stieber recommends a number of remedies that can help patients who are dealing with back and neck pain to ease symptoms at home without further medication.

Home remedies for pain

Ice or cold pack

A cold pack is an effective pain reliever, as it helps reduce inflammation in the affected area. Always keep a damp cloth between the cold pack and your skin. Press the cold pack firmly against the curves of the affected area for 15-20 minutes, but no longer. Alternating cold packs and heat can also be effective.

Heat

Heat therapy helps relieve back pain by improving blood circulation. The better the blood circulates, the more nutrients and oxygen can travel to the joints and muscles, which helps to repair damaged muscles and tissues and relieve inflammation. The heat pack also helps to relax the tissues in the area, which decreases pain signals. Apply a heat pack for at least 10-30 minutes to be effective.

Epsom salt baths

Epsom salt baths allow magnesium and sulfate to soak into the body through the skin. This helps to relax the muscles, and reduce swelling and pain. Soak for at least ten minutes in a bath with two cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the water.

Arnica cream

Arnica cream temporarily relieves and decreases pain, muscle stiffness, swelling, and bruising that result from injuries or surgical procedures. Depending on the condition being treated, Arnica cream may be an effective alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Exercise

Gentle exercises such as walking, yoga, or tai chi can help with breathing control and pain in the joints of your back. Gentle movements that help to stretch and strengthen muscles help relieve and ease certain types of pain.

Bracing

After surgery, bracing your surgical incision by holding the site when you stand, sneeze, cough, or do anything else that may cause stress to the site, can be a helpful way to manage pain. Bracing the incision during sudden motion or activity reduces pain and minimizes the chance of complications after the surgical procedure.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy

Both physical therapy and occupational therapy are helpful when it comes to managing pain. Physical therapists give exercises you can do at home to help preserve or improve your strength and mobility. Occupational therapists work with you to understand which activities you might be doing that could aggravate your pain, and they help you learn to perform your daily activities in ways that don’t exacerbate the pain.

Dr. Stieber

Dr. Jonathan Stieber is a fellowship-trained, board-certified, orthopedic spine surgeon who has 15 years of experience in performing spine surgeries and helping his patients to manage and reduce their pain levels. As one of the top spine surgeons in New York, Dr. Stieber is a Director of the Spine Center at OrthoManhattan and an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Stieber has been named a New York Magazine Best Doctor for 2021 and Castle Connolly Top Doctor for 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the best position to sleep in when you've sprained your back?

While there is no single sleeping position that works for everyone who has a back injury, sleeping on your side is typically helpful. Sleep on your side with a supportive pillow, with your back slightly elongated instead of curled up tightly.

What does it mean to “stay ahead of the pain”?

Getting ahead of the pain means that you should not wait until your pain is severe before you take pain medication. If you wait until the pain is too severe, it is more difficult to manage the pain as it increases and worsens.

What does getting enough sleep have to do with pain management?

Sleep is a key factor in controlling your pain levels. Getting enough sleep heightens your body’s ability to cope with the pain, improves the speed of healing, and can even reduce pain levels.

Can therapeutic massage help relieve pain?

Massage can help to work the tension out of the muscles and joints, and it may help distract from pain by introducing a different, "competing" sensation that can override the pain signals.

Is music therapy an effective pain reliever?

Music therapy is more of a distraction from the pain than it is a pain reliever. According to certain studies, music has been shown to help relieve pain after surgery, particularly classical music.

Is acupuncture effective?

Acupuncture can be an effective pain reliever for individuals experiencing pain in their back and neck. Acupuncture provides a focused approach to relieving pain points.

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Dear Patients:

Our patients' health and safety is our number one priority. Our office continues to be open for all email, telephone, and online inquiries. You can call us at 646-916-3962 or contact us via email to schedule your virtual telemedicine or in-person visit. Our doctors will be holding regular office hours for virtual video consultations and follow-up visits that permit you to stay in the comfort of your own home, utilizing your computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Additionally, we will continue to see select patients in the office for consultation and follow-up visits, including preoperative and postoperative appointments. Our doctors continue to perform procedures in our private, free-standing surgery center that offers an array of outpatient surgical services to treat spinal issues such as acute back pain, disc herniations, sciatica, and pinched nerves in the back or neck. We are also able to offer clean and efficient on-site x-ray capabilities in our office.

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