Either you have personally experienced back pain or know someone who has it right? I recently read a great article that popped up on my LinkedIn feed about back pain.
This article by Dr. Mary O’Keeffe and Dr. Kieran O’Sullivan is chocked full of great information, tips and myth busting, but it’s detailed and long so if you don’t have 30 minutes to check it out for yourself, I grabbed what I thought were the most impactful points and made a summary below.
What to do & what not to do:
- Don’t panic (even if this isn’t your first bout of pain)
- Don’t rush for treatment
- Don’t be (discouraged) by medical jargon and opinions
- Don’t worry about the MRI reports
- Don’t be fooled by quick fixes
- Remain active
- Return to usual activities
- Exercise helps to reduce pain and prevent future episodes
- Stay at/Go back to work as quickly as possible
- The whole person needs the treatment, not just the spine
Pain of any kind sucks, but freaking out about low back pain can make it worse (tension much?). It’s good to understand that with most back pain, you will heal. Occasional pain does not mean disability. Just like a tension headache, if you work to understand your triggers, the outcome looks brighter.
Knee-jerk medical scans and treatments are not as effective as previously thought. They are costly and sometimes harmful in the long term (injections). Scans like MRIs are not reliable to find the source of the pain now that more data with PAIN FREE individuals shows an MRI with disc bulges, disc degeneration and facet joint degeneration. **Side note: discs do not “slip” or “go out of place”. Using that lingo today is like saying you can “feel your metabolism firing up”, so stop…just stop.** The back is strong, stable and capable of lots of movement.
Quick fixes like gadgets, lotions or pills are always too good to be true. Pills only mask the pain and the side effects of the strong ones cause more trouble than relief (back up pipes). Relief from back pain comes from challenging our instincts away from spending money on a quick fix or curling up in a corner wrapped with bubble wrap.
Keep moving! Even if it’s a bit funky at first. Like an ankle sprain, gentle movement will help flush out the inflammation and reduce stiffness so you eventually get back to a normal stride. The more you sit in that corner not moving, the stiffer you will become.
Returning to work and usual activities with awareness of proper lifting and movements is more helpful in the long term. If you have a physical job, progressing and patterning safe but not overprotective movements will build a strong foundation for the muscles around the back and the core. If you have a sedentary job, getting around and moving on an hourly basis with prevent stiffness and reoccurrence.
Which leads us to exercise. The circulation and strength that comes from almost any exercise is what will emphasize a strong, healthy back. Swim, bike, walk. **My addition: Improving mobility and controlled strength throughout functional ranges of motion is essential, but don’t overthink it. Something is better than nothing**
Finally, make sure to look at the big picture. This means body AND mind. Check in with stress levels and home or work, financial problems or lack of sleep. All of these can have a negative effect on pain and speed of healing on not only low back pain, but other health conditions as well. Work to understand your triggers for your back pain and you will find success in preventing future tweaks and discomfort.
I highly recommend reading the original article when you have the time, but until then I hope this helps you open your eyes to new solutions and gives you the confidence to injury proof yourself.
Please leave a comment below or contact me with any questions!