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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Treating Aches and Pains

A personal perspective on healing back, joint and other body pains.

by: Buck Tilton

On To Treatment
It takes surprisingly little strain on your back, if the angle is right, to tear muscles. About 5.5 million per year in the United States miss work because of back strain. The resulting agony can be debilitating. It's generally several days before the pain goes entirely away, but almost everyone can make themselves functional in a couple of days by following a recognized routine.
  1. Rest. Very important. Rest on your side or your back with thick padding underneath your knees.
  2. Heat. A warm compress or hot water bottle applied to the back, or a hot bath (if you can figure out how to pull it off in the woods) will help ease the pain. Some people react better to an application of cold to the lower back, but use of heat is indicated for most of us.
  3. Massage. Get someone to work on your lower-back muscles.
  4. Drugs. Consult your physician for prescription muscle relaxants.
A doctor friend of mine, who insists on remaining anonymous, suggests moderate doses of alcohol can be beneficial. Alcohol, he says, blunts pain, increases circulation, and is less addictive than some muscle relaxants (e.g. Valium).

If the pain doesn't go away, or if pain, tingling, numbness, or paralysis begins to creep down your legs, it's time to forget the snowy outdoors for a while and find a physician.

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