Back pain affects the vast majority of people at some point in their lives.
The affects of back pain can be life altering and there is a lot of fear and misconception around its causes and prognosis. The good news is that most back pain, 90%, is not due to any serious disease or structural problem, however severe the pain. For most people, their back pain is labelled as non-specific or mechanical. Often, non-specific lower back pain feels like an insufficient diagnosis, as people tend to believe that because it hurts, there must be something really specific that is wrong with them. However, the truth is that their back pain is caused by something that they’ve done, how they’re moving, sitting or using their backs.
What people believe plays a big role too, as if they’re concerned or anxious, they tend to move differently, subconsciously exacerbating their back pain. I can’t tell you how often in my clinic, when examining someone, I ask them to bend forwards. Initially, they look at me like I’m mad for asking them to do such an awfully difficult, painful task and then with lots of fear, holding their breath and tensing their muscles, they reluctantly bend. In these circumstances, it almost always hurts, as their fear creates muscle spasm, which in turn creates movement restriction and pain. But if I can reduced their fear, get them to relax, breathe and move normally, their movement will often almost instantly be restored.
Other things such as stress, lack of sleep and believing that hurt equals damage to the spine, also ramp up pain levels. We all know how grumpy being tired and stressed can make us feel and the affects that it can have on our overall well-being. But what people often don’t realise is that it can make their pain feel worse too.
So what’s the answer? Well for most people some simple over-the-counter pain killers, ice or heat and keeping gently moving are enough to help their back pain settle down. The days of getting people to lie flat on the floor are well and truly over, as we now know that this makes them stiff, as well as being painful.
Re-assess your lifestyle, manage your stress levels, get some sleep and gently increase your activity levels if you can, as all of these things will help you to manage your back pain and help you keep things in perspective, preventing further episodes. If your back pain isn’t settling and you need some more help and advice, go and see your physiotherapist. Your physio will listen to your story and the problems that you are having. They will then examine you and after working out with you what your issues are, will provide you with some tailor- made treatment, help and advice to get you back in action!