Dear Kareena: I’ve been suffering from back pain for a few months. It’s now starting to affect my day-to-day life—not to mention my weekly tennis game. Do you have any tips on managing chronic pain?
— Achy, Breaky Back
Dear Achy, Breaky Back: Many of my patients suffer from chronic pain—back pain, joint pain and migraines are common ailments—so you are not alone. The good news is that there are many ways to manage back pain, and your local Guardian® or I.D.A.® pharmacist can recommend solutions for temporary relief. For example, I recommend applying a cold compress to provide relief to a new injury, as it helps lower the initial inflammation and swelling, whereas for ongoing injuries, warm compress is better in order to promote blood flow and faster healing.
Whether you should stop physical activity depends on many factors. Every patient is unique, but in most cases, it’s important that you stay active, stretch and maintain good posture. I recommend trying swimming or yoga, instead of high-impact activities such as running. Once your pain is under control, you can try resuming your weekly tennis matches—but go slowly and pay attention to how your body responds.
It’s estimated that 19% of Canadians adults live with chronic pain (pain which lasts for more than 3 months). That’s quite a significant number! It can be difficult to diagnose and treat chronic pain properly because there are many types of pain and many potential causes. That’s why I advise you to keep a pain journal as a way to help define your pain. In a journal, you can note down what triggers your pain, whether it’s an activity, a specific movement or a particular situation, such as sitting in a car. Don’t forget to take your journal with you when you visit your doctor or pharmacist.
Finally, it’s important to consult your pharmacist if you’re taking chronic pain medication for an existing condition, since over-the-counter drugs can interfere and overlap with your existing regimen.
Your pharmacist can help you manage your pain, no matter the source. We’re here for you.
Get a dose of our pharmacists’ advice at guardian-ida-pharmacies.ca.