Steroid injections can be helpful for some people with debilitating back pain, and they're generally safe. But a recent mix up of tainted vials from a recalled batch of steroid shots led to an outbreak of a rare form of fungal meningitis that can be fatal.
If you suffer from back pain -- which will affect upward of 80 percent of Americans at some time in their lives -- you don't need steroids to treat the ache. There are safer ways to get relief and even prevent back pain altogether:
1. Pack on some heat -- or ice.
To soothe your sore, stiff back, you might want to use a combo of heat and ice: Heat can reduce muscle spasms and pain. Cold can reduce swelling and numb deep pain.
2. Learn new ways to do your everyday activities.
There are certain ways to lift, push or pull that put less stress on your back; changing the way you exercise, sit and sleep can help lessen back pain too.
3. Stay active.
Spines are meant to move! Don't give up your daily activities like making beds, going to work or walking the dog. Once the pain subsides and you're feeling better, aerobic activities like walking, swimming and biking can keep you mobile.
4. Build your strength.
You might not be ready to pump iron -- yet -- but once your back pain has lessened, it's a good idea to strengthen the muscles that support your back to help avoid future problems. In addition, strong hip, pelvic and abdominal muscles also play a role in a stronger and healthier back.
5. Remember to stretch.
Sitting at a desk all day? Take a break every 15 to 20 minutes to get up and stretch. If you sit hunched forward working on your computer, stand up and stretch the opposite way. Yoga can be a helpful way to manage back pain, too, especially twists and downward dogs.
6. Trade in your heels.
Wearing high heels, which create an unstable posture, can put pressure on your lower spine. Try flats or low heels that are less than 1 inch high.
7. Watch the scale.
Being overweight can put extra stress on your spine. Eating smaller portions and filling up with vegetables and fruits can help you shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
8. Explore alternative treatments.
Treatments like acupuncture, acupressure, massage and spinal manipulation may be helpful and beneficial for chronic low-back pain.
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