By Matt Fitzsimmons – Physiotherapist
Back pain is a widespread condition that effects the vast majority of the population at some point throughout their life. This condition is often misunderstood and mismanaged, by not only individuals but also healthcare providers, necessitating the need for anyone experiencing back pain understand the up-to-date knowledge regarding this condition. This article, adapted from the Physio Network, provides an easy summary on the current understanding and advise on managing back pain.
- Don’t panic
- Low back pain is so common that nearly everyone will experience it at some point and therefore it should not be viewed as a threatening condition.
- Instead, focus on what triggers your pain and seek help on what you should and should not do rather than trying to eliminate it.
- The majority of back pain (about 98%) is attributed to non-serious musculoskeletal causes.
- It is often transient, and most people will recover quickly (within 6-8 weeks).
- Don’t rush
- It is inevitable that people want to seek immediate investigation to understand and treat the source of their pain. However…
- Strong evidence supports that unless serious medical pathology is under question, scans such as X-Rays or MRI are not always necessary or accurate in isolating a specific cause of pain.
- Painkillers can reduce the suffering caused by back pain, but over the counter options should be sought out first. Painkillers also do not speed the time to recovery and come with side-effects.
- Surgery is rarely an option for back pain and should be avoided for a considerable period to allow for natural recovery or recovery using non-surgical approaches i.e. physical therapy and exercise.
- Don’t listen to the misconceptions
- Discs, bones, and joints do not “slip” or “go out of place” and treatments such as spinal manipulation do not re-position things back into place.
- This language and rationale, which not only inaccurate, give the impression that the spine is vulnerable and fragile which creates anxiety, a fear of movement and exercise, and a pursuit for non-essential interventions.
- Don’t worry about scans
- Often people that receive scans for their back pain have some “positive” finding such as arthritis or disc bulges.
- These findings are very common and a normal part of the ageing process. In fact, most people without any pain or symptoms have these findings on imaging.
- It takes an accurate clinical assessment to correlate these imaging findings to your pain experience.
- Don’t be fooled by quick fixes
- There are no magical cures or quick fixes for back pain.
- These marketed “quick fixes” often distract people from engaging in approaches that are proven to be more helpful, such as adhering to an exercise program or getting a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid bed rest, remain active, and return to your usual activities
- Research has shown that people with back pain who remain active (even when in pain) do better in the long-term.
- Some pain during activity is to be expected and pain does not mean you are creating further damage.
- The trick is to find a balance between letting the pain settle while still remaining active and then gradually increasing your activities back to their pre-injury levels (a physiotherapist can help with this).
- Stay at work or return as quickly as you can
- The longer you delay returning to your usual activities, the longer the delay to recovery.
- As mentioned above, a gradual return to normal activities is helpful, including work.
- This may mean modifying your work routine, the way you do it, or your work duties and gradually returning to full duties.
- Exercise does help!
- Exercise can not only alleviate some pain, it also is shown to be one of the only methods to prevent recurrence of back pain (by nearly 50%!)
If you would like to read the full article, check out https://physio-network.com/all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-back-pain/ . Credit to Dr. Mary O’Keeffe
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