SIMPLE LOW BACK PAIN – THE FACTS, NOT THE FICTION!
A. Not necessarily! Less than 1 in 100 people with low back pain have a serious cause for their pain (eg fracture, cancer, infection or inflammatory arthritis).
Furthermore these conditions are usually obvious and your chiropractor will take a careful case history and examination in order to check for them. If they have any doubt they will refer you on.
Research shows that the more you stress about the pain you have, the worse it gets – so when you know that you have simple low back pain, then you can stop worrying and start helping yourself to recover.
Don’t get depressed – get FIT!
Q. Yes but it is SO painful, I can hardly MOVE!
A. Lots of research shows that strong pain does not equal a bad injury.
Simple low back pain – i.e. that is not caused by any of those issues mentioned above, will typically improve a lot over the first couple of weeks. This is a very common problem and is often caused because you repeatedly perform an action over and over again that overloads some tissues in your back and eventually they HURT – often a LOT!
You can often also get muscle ‘spasm’ in the muscles surrounding the area you have irritated and that hurts a LOT too. When you see people twisted to one side or stuck in a bent forward position and they find it difficult to walk, it is often because they have done ‘something’ to a joint or a disc or ligament or muscle in their low back and the muscles just tighten up so you can’t move and do more damage. The trouble is, that muscle spasm hurts a LOT too! The muscles concerned are often big muscles that keep you upright and walking so when they spasm you really feel it. This is temporary though and once the tissues they are protecting settle down then the spasm goes too.
Q. It keeps coming back?
A. It often does! Four out of five people will get low back pain in their life and of those, half will have further episodes. BUT – treatment and exercise and learning WHY it keep recurring can really help to reduce episodes.
It could be that you keep bending awkwardly without realising it or you are just very unfit and don’t do anything about it.
If you don’t know the best way to reduce irritation and overloading the tissues in your back then you can’t help yourself.
Building muscle and keeping a neutral spine helps a lot – so many problems are due to inappropriate ‘repetitive strain’ – then something ‘gives’ and is often painful.
Q. Why don’t I need an X-ray or a scan? How do you KNOW it’s not serious without one?
A. Because they often do NOT help find the cause of the pain! Yes they are good at showing serious causes of low back pain but these are rare and your Chiropractor will check for signs of these causes and of course send you for x-rays if they feel it is necessary.
Don’t forget that you can see many changes on an x-ray but these do NOT mean that you will always have back pain as a result of those changes. Research has shown that knowing you DO have ‘changes’ in your spine on x-ray or scans can cause unnecessary anxiety, worry and stress, even though those changes are unimportant and ‘normal’.
Even a lot of ‘degeneration’ as seen in this image does NOT mean you will necessarily get back pain – hard to believe but true!
Q. What can I DO to help myself?
A. Often movement is the greatest help although if you are in a lot of pain you will obviously need to take it easy for a few days but you really DO benefit from getting back to normal activities as soon as possible. Pain with movement does NOT necessarily mean you are doing HARM!
Don’t get stressed by it. Relax and BREATHE.
Do get good advice and treatment.
Do regular exercises that are appropriate for your problem.
Do look at your lifestyle and think about how you may have contributed to your low back pain yourself! Have you ever said any of these things to yourself?
- I know I should exercise but I really can’t be bothered at the moment
- Chiropractic is too expensive – I’ll be OK
- I’m too busy now
- Do I REALLY need to do them?
- I HATE exercise
- I’ve been OK all these years until now, I’ll be OK when I recover
- I’ll do something later
- My friend doesn’t do ANYTHING and she/he is OK
- I’ll just avoid lifting and I’ll be OK
- I know I have a rubbish diet but I’ll be OK
- I can’t believe that smoking can contribute to my low back pain!
- I don’t have time to do exercises
- My house is too small to exercise in
- I can’t afford to go to the gym
Q. Do I HAVE TO exercise? I’M FED UP READING ABOUT EXERCISE
A. Do you want to keep getting back pain or do you want to reduce the frequency you get it?
I think that we sometimes think our bodies belong to ‘someone else’ and we don’t need to take responsibility for what we DO to our bodies. How can that BE?
I confess that I HATE exercising! But I KNOW how I feel if I don’t – so I bung on some music that I love and I DO something – every DAY before I get on with my day.
I just don’t THINK about it – I just DO it!
There is no better way than to start with the ‘Big Three’ that you can find on the website. They give you greater stability in the deep postural muscles so they support your spine when you do more advanced exercises or play sport. When you feel stronger you can add weights to your ankles and/or use therabands to provide greater resistance and build muscle to protect you.
When you start, you often find you can hardly hold a position for more then 5 seconds. You wobble and pant and things hurt a bit and you just CAN’T hold it for longer!
THEN something wonderful happens after a few days. You can do more repetitions. You feel ‘lighter’. You can hold a position for longer and you stop ‘wobbling’ when you do so. You can BREATHE while to do the exercises, and you can get up off the floor easier – you don’t have to drag yourself upright and you start to FEEL BETTER!!
At the Avenue Clinic we will try our best to put your mind at rest but you really need also to help us to help you. If you are worried about something, don’t feel ‘silly’ – ask one of us about it. If you are feeling weak and as if your back is going to ‘seize up’ with little provocation then you need to make it stronger. There is no easy way but little and often WILL work – so stop giving in to your own excuses and just get on with it, like I do – you know it makes sense!!