Ask Dr. Ty: Nursing a bad back and lowering high blood pressure

theGRIO REPORT - Dr. Tyeese Gaines, an emergency medicine physician and health editor for, answers reader questions about back pain and high blood pressure...

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Question: “I did my daughter’s Sweet 16 party on Saturday, including cleaning, cooking and moving stuff. Sunday morning, my lower back was in so much pain. What can I do instead of going to the doctor?” — Nakia B. asked on Facebook.

Answer: When a back injury leads to a muscle strain or painful spasms, there are a few tactics you can try.

It sounds simple, but try not to injure it again. Avoid heavy lifting or movements that use your back muscles while your back is in this vulnerable state. Make sure you’re sleeping on a good mattress and not falling asleep on the couch. Wearing a back brace can help protect it, as well as remembering to lift things by bending your knees, not your waist. But, be patient — not giving yourself enough time to heal is a sure way to prolong your recovery.

Use methods that soothe the muscles. Soak in a warm bath or let the warm shower hit against your back. Heating pads work well also, but be careful not to burn the skin by leaving it on too long. And, massage those knots you can reach — it may hurt more at first, but it will help in the long run.

Stay active so you don’t get stiff. After a few days of rest, start gently stretching your back muscles. Ease back into aerobic activities and slowly advance to exercises that use back muscles. Strengthening your abdominal muscles with sit-ups or core exercises will take the strain off of your back moving forward.

Seek medical treatment if you’re not getting better. If you’re aiming to avoid medication, consider a therapeutic massage or consult with a specialist in orthopedics for a suitable treatment. You may also visit a chiropractic clinic. A chiropractor or osteopathic physician can also realign the spine, which may alleviate stubborn backaches. Numbness and tingling in the legs or new problems with incontinence are warning signs that your pain may be more than a simple back strain. See a doctor immediately in those cases.

Question: “I need to know what to do to keep my blood pressure down.” — Denise B. said on Facebook.

Answer: All high blood pressure is not made alike. Each person with the disease has different reasons for having high blood pressure and, as a result, needs to use different approaches. Those with diseases such as lupus, for example, should aim treatment at the underlying cause — the lupus — at the same time as attacking the blood pressure.

Many people who have chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, are actually born with the genetic set up for developing it. But, lifestyle choices, weight gain and diet still play a large role. Many experts say that losing just 5 percent of body weight can improve hypertension and diabetes to the point of requiring no medication or less medication. Exercising a few days a week also helps. And, cutting down on salt, or sodium, intake is important.

Sodium is in everything from sodas to canned vegetables. The average person should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg each day. The average American actually consumes double this amount. African-Americans, on the other hand, tend to be more affected by sodium, so the recommended limit is only 1,500 mg.

Unfortunately, even with the best lifestyle, some people need medication to control their blood pressure. Remember that the initial damage from hypertension is silent. Left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure, dialysis, stroke and heart damage. So, it’s not to be taken lightly just because a person with hypertension feels well.

Dr. Tyeese Gaines is a physician-journalist with over 10 years of print and broadcast experience, now serving as health editor for Dr. Ty is also a practicing emergency medicine physician in New Jersey. Follow her on twitter at @doctorty.

Note: The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider with questions. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.