There is so much information available for you to help you manage your back pain. But what is garbage and misinformation, and what is beneficial advice that will actually help you manage your pain?
There is not another condition with more myths and misconceptions as back pain. So here are the real facts that have evidence-based research to help you work out what you should be doing and what you should avoid.
- Back pain is very common. While back pain can be very painful and concerning it is a very common condition and very rarely dangerous. Over 80% of people will experience back pain at some stage in their lives. Most of which settle well in a short amount of time.
- Scans like x rays, CTs and MRIs are most often not needed. Scans cannot predict how long you will be in pain or what structures are causing the pain. In fact, scans will often show abnormalities in the spine of people without any symptoms, these may be normal age-related changes. This is why a thorough history and physical examination will give us far more information for us to work out a treatment plan. We will however refer for imaging if we suspect a more sinister source for the pain, like infections or cancer.
- Resting is very rarely advised. In fact, resting for more than a day or two can delay or prevent the recovery. Bed rest can result in the loss of strength and resilience in the muscles and joints.
- Back pain often occurs when we do things that our back is not used to, like after gardening or repeated lifting. It is often best to start small and build up over time to avoid the risk of injury.
- The back is not vulnerable or susceptible to damage. Our spine is meant to bend forwards and back, side to side and to twist. These are all safe movements to do. Discs do not slip out of place.
- You can get back pain without any damage to the spine structures. Often it just hurts to move, but it isn’t harming you. Pain can be influenced by many factors, many of which you may not even be aware of, for instance stress and anxiety, past experiences of back pain or your expectations of recovery.
- Back pain can be exacerbated by many factors- like being over weight, smoking or when experiencing stress and anxiety.
- Poor posture alone does not generally cause back pain. However, if we stay in any position for too long it may put strain on the spine structures which can lead to pain. Frequent movement is the key.
- Movement is medicine. Being active and moving regularly will help to prevent back pain and can help to relieve it when it comes. The stronger and more resilient our backs are the lesser the chance of us experiencing back pain.
- Opioid medicines can make the pain worse. Over time the body gets used to the effects of the opioids so that a higher dose is required for the same pain relief. Opioids can be very dangerous in higher doses, and now experts are recommending against these medications for back pain.
- Surgery is rarely recommended by surgeons to help with back pain. The first line of treatment for most back pain is a conservative strengthening rehabilitation program. However, there are certain back conditions surgery can help with.
TIPS TO HELP PREVENT BACK PAIN
- Remain active- walking, bike riding, swimming, playing sport. These are all great activities that will help strengthen your spine and maintain its resilience. People who are physically fit generally suffer less back pain and recover from episodes of pain more rapidly.
- Go to the gym and lift weights. Probably the number 1 preventative strategy. If you strengthen your back you will protect your back from injury. If you are starting out you will need to build up the exercise tolerance gradually over several weeks.
- Prevent long periods of inactivity and rest. Probably the number 1 reason for increasing the risk of an injury is being sedentary.
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain your weight.
- Get adequate sleep- did you know that we recover much better if we get 7-8 hours of quality sleep a night.
- Wear good supportive shoes.
- Warm up prior to exercise or activities
- Don’t stress over little niggles. Most minor back pain should settle on its own. If the pain does not settle then definitely come and see a physio for a full assessment and to get a plan for managing it back to health.
In many cases the exact cause of pain and the structures involved are not able to be identified. This may be frustrating, but rest assured that this will not prevent us from treating the pain effectively and restoring full function quickly.
When you do have pain that does not settle, it is important to have it assessed by someone who understands back pain and is able to treat you, educate you and show you what exercises will help manage the condition effectively. With so much misinformation readily available it is good to know you can trust your physio at Back In Motion Bayswater.
Director and Principal Physiotherapist