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Have you noticed how low back pain can sneak up on you at the most inconvenient of times?
According to the latest research nearly everyone will experience pain in their lower back at some point in their lifetime. The good news is most people’s lower back pain will subside within a few weeks. If we are honest, despite all the research we still don’t know why so many people experience lower back pain or why a small percentage of people experience recurrent episodes of back pain.
This has become more personal to me as I have been dealing with an acute episode of back pain over the last couple of weeks. I now understand, it’s not pleasant at all! Somehow, I decided to view my pain in a very positive way and to see it as a blessing. To view this pain as a means of helping me connect and understand my patients better, to help me have more empathy and choose my words more carefully with them and you.
Now, rather than quoting a lot of research that is impersonal to you, I can give much more personalised advice about how to help your pain, including the best exercises and ways to keep active.
On the subject of research, just so you know, it all points towards the importance of keeping yourself active, returning to work as soon as possible and trying to maintain your social connections. Spending time with our friends having a drink (tea or even wine – your choice!) is crucial in helping how we feel.
Just because you read something, it doesn’t make it always factual, sometimes the media and social media can be quite unhelpful and inaccurate. Your friends and even unfortunately some medical practitioners may talk about needing to have bed rest, protecting your back, straightening your posture, and to avoid bending. They may suggest that you need a scan ‘to diagnose the cause of your pain’.
For more than 90% of people with back pain, we are not able to identify the exact structure that causes your back pain even with a scan. This pain is then called, ‘non-specific low back pain’. I know this is puzzling, because you want to know exactly what is wrong so you and we can ‘fix it’ and how can you fix something if you don’t know what is broken?
The amazing news is: We don’t have to know, because it won’t change the treatment. 90% of people with acute back pain will recover within 6 weeks regardless of the treatment. The research tells us that you might have good results if you go for a walk, do a yoga class or attend a physiotherapy or gym sessions. What you do doesn’t matter, as long as it involves movement. My top tip is to find an activity that you love and keep doing it.
Having now experienced back pain myself, I understand how hard it is to be active when you have pain. The last thing you want to do is to move around and ‘possibly’ aggravate your pain and then find yourself worrying ‘have I increased the damage in my back?’ Or, ‘am I causing more problems and harm?’ The answer is very often, no, you aren’t. Keep moving, it will help.
It’s important to remember that your back is the strongest structure in your body and very hard to damage. If you have managed to irritate some of the structures in your back it does not mean that it is damaged and the best news is that your body has an amazing ability to heal and you can help this by moving and remaining positive.
Are you wondering about the remaining 10% of people experiencing back pain? For these people it may be necessary to arrange further investigations such as an MRI scan or blood tests and they may then need further intervention such as injections or surgery. Don’t forget, the odds are low 90:10, so it is rare and does not account for most of the people we see on a daily basis in clinic.
Don’t worry, we can help you work out whether you are in the 90% or 10% bracket if you are concerned and help you get back to living a healthy life. Give me a call. I know how you are feeling!
If you would like to discuss the topics in this blog, please feel free to contact our friendly patient services team on 01442 331 900 or fill out our contact form here.
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