Back pain can be annoying, inconvenient, frustrating, and for most of us a completely normal part of life. When we experience back pain, there are strategies we can employ to make the process somewhat easier and prevent back pain lingering longer than we would like.
We know that back pain can be really complex in some cases and in some cases, there are no quick fixes. However, we also know that if we stick to some basic principles, we can move through the process with more confidence and get back to what we want to do.
Here are 5 strategies to better manage your back pain.
1) Try not to panic
When you have back pain, it’s very easy to get carried away with all the nasty things you hear about backs. “Protect your back, it needs stabilising” “Don’t lift anything heavy” and “Oh dear, you’ve got a bulging disc”. The problem is that a lot of these messages are unsubstantiated and really cause more harm than good. The back is a resilient structure and low back pain is quite often completely normal and rarely dangerous.
If you have not experienced any of the following,
– Weakness in your legs associated with your back pain
– Significant changes to bladder or bowel function following the onset of your back pain
– Considerable physical trauma to your spine
– Systemic illness, feeling generally unwell or feverish
then you are most likely dealing with a common condition that has a great capacity to improve with some very basic management principles.
2) Keep to your normal daily routine with modification if required.
If there are high levels of pain then modification may be sensible, however, it is safe to keep moving. I think most people would feel ok to walk around on a sprained ankle, but would hesitate to move their back when in pain, due to fear of damaging it. Excessive rest or avoiding activity can be tempting but keeping to your normal day-to-day routines has been recommended by current research to improve function and pain.
Easy movements targeting the back can be safe and will help the initial process. It’s ok to bend to try and tie up your shoes, even if this might be painful initially. It may hurt to sit, walk and move but over time you should experience changes in the right direction. Walking is also a great way to get through the early stages of low back pain. It’s safe to do and it also gets you out of the house and into the fresh air!
4) Relax and Breathe
When we experience pain it is very easy to tense up and hold your breath or shallow breathe at rest and with movements. In the early phase this may be unavoidable, however, be aware of how you are breathing and if you can change this, then try it. Breath holding or shallow breathing can increase more tension around the abdomen and low back muscles which might add to the pain cycle.
5) Unsure? Seek professional advice.
If you are struggling to move forward with your pain and unsure how to proceed, speak to a physiotherapist who can guide you through the uncertain period and give you some strategies to get you back to what you want to do.
Chris Davies is a post graduate trained physiotherapist, with a special interest in managing persistent pain. Chris practices at In Clinic Physiotherapy, weekly.