Pretty much everyone at some stage in their life has or will suffer from an episode of lower back pain. The statistics for lower back pain are pretty interesting;
- Back pain more common in Ireland than diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure
- Back pain accounts for 25% of doctor visits
- Irelands leading cause of disability
There are multiple diagnosis or reasons why someone may suffer from an episode of lower back pain. It is always recommended that you see your G.P. or Chartered Physiotherapist if you are suffering from lower back pain so they can do a full assessment and provide you with an exact diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. However, these are a few tips that may help manage your lower back pain.
- Most episodes of lower back pain are not serious and clear up reasonably quickly
When an episode of back pain occurs it can be sudden, severe and frightening. Almost everyone will experience an episode of lower back pain during their lifetime similar to the common cold. It will run its course and settle quickly. Statistically 99% of back is not serious. Pinpointing possible triggers to recurrent lower back pain can be helpful i.e. sudden change in activities, stress, fatigue, lack of sleep. If you can address the triggers this may reduce the likelihood of re-occurrence of lower back pain.
- Avoid bed rest
The research shows that people who use bed rest or prolonged rest as a form of treatment for lower back pain do worse in the longer term. Similar to any other injury it is important to avoid pain provoking activities in the initial stages. The research indicates that moving is better over the longer term.
- Surgery is rarely required as a treatment option for lower back pain
Surgery may be required on the rare occasion when symptoms have failed to resolve with conservative treatment.
- Your back is a strong robust structure
During an episode of severe lower back pain, it is common for people to think that they have “put their back out” or their disc has “slipped”. There is no evidence to support this theory and it’s more likely they are experiencing severe protective muscle spasm that accompanies the lower back pain. The discs, bones, joints in the back do not go “out of place or “slip”. The discs are firmly attached between the back bones and cannot move however they can get inflamed or swollen.
- The perfect sitting posture does not exist
Contrary to popular belief the perfect sitting posture does not exist and there is no scientific evidence that sitting causes low back pain. However, when you are experiencing an episode of lower back pain sitting for a prolonged period can be uncomfortable and sitting in a supported position maybe helpful. Your back likes to move therefore changing position/posture regularly is of great benefit.
- Poor sleep influences back pain
When suffering from lower back pain it can be difficult to get a full night’s sleep and vice versa not getting enough sleep can be a contributory factor to ongoing lower back pain. In the same way – not getting enough sleep can make us stressed, irritable, give us a headache, it can also cause or prolong episodes of lower back pain. In addition, not sleeping well can slow down the recovery process from musculoskeletal injury. Therefore, improving sleep routines and habits can be very helpful in managing many painful conditions.
- Lifting and bending are not enemies of the back
The back is actually designed to bend and lift. If you are lifting heavy items in an awkward position this can increase the likelihood of you experiencing lower back pain and maybe the cause of an episode of lower back pain. But this does not mean that you should avoid these in the long term. If lifting objects is a big part of your daily routine it is worth building up a tolerance therefore you get stronger and more confident. Returning to lifting after an episode of lower back pain should be approached with the same philosophy as returning the activities after any injury. You need to train to get used to the activity, build strength/endurance in the muscles and build up tolerance to the activity.
- Get moving – exercise is good and safe
There is no scientific evidence to show that one exercise is better than another when it comes to lower back pain. What we do know is that if the person enjoys a particular type of exercise they are likely to participate over the longer term whether that be running, walking, swimming, biking. If you are unsure of how to start back into exercising after an episode of lower back pain a visit to a Chartered Physiotherapist can be a good idea to get you off to the correct start.
- Low back pain is an individual and unique experience
Sometimes lower back pain can be attributed to structures like the disc/joint/muscles however there are other triggers in life that can make it feel worse and these are different for everyone. There can be emotional triggers (fear, stress, depression), health related triggers (being tired or run down), lifestyle related triggers (poor sleep, obesity, lack of activity, smoking), social related triggers (stress, financial issues, poor support at work). All lower back pain is REAL no matter what the trigger. Therefore, it can be a good idea to look at your overall health and wellbeing to see if there are any positive changes that could be made.
- Remain active
This may seem difficult when in the middle of an episode of severe lower back pain. The key is to find balance between not resting completely and letting your back pain settle. Modifying activities so that you are not doing pain provoking activities for a few days (i.e. lifting) and then gradually building these activities back up. You do not need to be completely pain-free to start moving again. If you are unsure or not confident about getting back to full activities after an episode of lower back pain making an appointment with a Chartered Physiotherapist sooner rather than later can be beneficial to get you on the correct pathway.