Taking the strain

WITH LAMBING under way, there is potential for a whole host of niggling aches and pains at this time of year.

Back pain can be a particular problem, as you will often find yourself in interesting positions trying to deliver awkward lambs.

Don”t worry, I am not going to suggest finding time in your challenging schedule to do exercises, but if you are unlucky enough to hurt your back, just following some simple advice can give it the best chance of healing quickly. It can also buy you some time until the busiest period is over and you can seek help.

Many of us (time permitting) would soak in a hot bath at the end of a long day. While this is excellent for soothing generally tired or stiff muscles, if you have injured your back or “felt something go”, try to avoid having a very hot bath as heat can increase muscle damage and make matters worse. A warm shower is fine.

After three days of a new injury, it is usually fine to use direct heat on your back. A lavender and wheat microwaveable hot pack, which you can buy from some chemists, is great and only takes two minutes to heat up (don”t worry, lads, the lavender smell soon wears off after a few blasts in the microwave!) Avoid sitting for long periods – if possible, no more than 20 minutes at a time. This may feel comfortable at the time but can aggravate a bad back. When sitting, a towel rolled up like a sausage in the small of your back can ease the pain and keep your back in a good position.

Also, try lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent over a pillow or on your side with a pillow between your knees. These are also useful positions in bed.

A soft mattress can make some back pain worse. A simple remedy is to put several wooden boards longitudinally under the mattress – each about 4 to 6in wide. This can give temporary relief until it is practical to get a new one. If your back is generally stiff and achy when you get up, your mattress may be contributing to the problem. Most mattresses, even expensive ones, need changing every five to eight years.

Lifting can be very painful when you have hurt your back, but is often difficult to avoid. If you have to lift, have your feet apart, bend at the hips and knees with your back straight, hold the object close to you and never lift with straight arms.

This is obvious, but surprisingly easy to get wrong, with painful consequences. If you can tighten your stomach muscles as you lift, this will help to protect your back.

Finally, remember many minor strains can ease after a few days, but some can take weeks or longer. If your pain hasn”t improved after four to six weeks or is constant and severe, particularly if you have associated leg pain, weakness or numbness, consult your GP.