Avoiding back pain entirely, for our whole lives, is unlikely: up to 70% of us will experience at least one episode of acute low back pain in our lives (World Health Organisation, 2013). An article in New Scientist magazine (August 2019) suggested that we should think of back pain like we do the common cold: inevitable, and best just to get through it with some paracetamol and give it time.
Which is all very well, but if you’ve ever experienced low back pain, you’ll know it's not always something you can just ‘put up with’. At best it’s a nuisance and stops us playing with the kids or going to the gym for a couple of weeks. At its worst, it’s crippling and very frightening, and stops us getting on with life completely.
The first part of my job during one of these episodes is to listen to the patient carefully: this helps me understand what's important to that person and what I can do to help.
The second part is figuring out what’s causing the pain, then explain to the patient:
a) what’s happening and why
b) when it’s going to get better
c) and what they can do to help themselves
And, thirdly, providing treatment: using combinations of mobilisation, stretching, muscle and fascial release, manipulation and more… which honestly usually does help quite a lot*
I treat a lot of patients with back pain, and over the years I’ve noticed some commonalities in what contributes to back pain. I’ll be covering these in the next couple of blogs, along with some helpful hints of what you can do to help yourself try and avoid some of the common issues causing back pain. Hopefully you might find something that rings true for you and be prompted to do something about it or share it with someone if you think it could help them.
Read on to Part 1 if you’d like to know more…
*Reassuringly, a paper by the World Health Organisation (2019) summarised all possible care options for back pain, including steroids and surgery, and found that manual therapy was recommended in most cases for both acute and chronic back pain. You can read the paper here.