Back pain and back injury is the most common complaint in the world that leads to a GP appointment. It is thought that 9 out of 10 people in the UK will experience back pain in their lifetime. At Physiocomestoyou, we see huge numbers of people with back pain each year and so we stay up to date with the latest research and ideas for best management. Back pain can re-occur and often it does in episodes.
Having experienced the pain and feeling of panic associated with severe back pain, our physio and Bristol Manager Leanne shares her 5 top tips on how you can limit your risk of getting back pain or a re-occurrence of back pain:
1. Stay Active
A big risk factor for back pain is a reduction in your activity levels. This may be gradual over time or enforced due to work or lifestyle changes that you have no control over. However, reducing your general activity level means a higher risk of tissues becoming less flexible, oxygen not flowing freely to aid natural recovery and muscles being used less often. Research has clearly indicated that those of us that are staying more active will have less episodes of back pain. Regularly exercising doesn’t require a huge time commitment, and the benefits do not only include a reduction in back pain, but many other health improvements such as your heart health and a lower risk of diabetes.
2. Manage Your Weight
It appears that an increased waistline can influence back pain episodes. We are not sure if this is directly due to the increased physical weight on the tissues of the back, or if this is due to biological changes in over-weight individuals. It is sometimes hard to notice the gradual increase in our own size and shape. Take the time to measure your waistline monthly or have a pair of fitted trousers or a skirt that you know only just fits you, and try to ensure it always does up. This is a quick and easy way to remind yourself to lose a little weight if it has crept on. Small changes to diet can make positive changes to your shape and size. An example is cutting down significantly on breads and pastas. This can help to lower weight significantly if you are persistent.
3. Avoid Twisting Awkwardly When Lifting
The evidence for what movements and postures are potentially troublesome for our backs has changed and varied a lot over the last decade. It was commonly thought that slouching when we sit and bending our spines to lift instead of our knees, would definitely lead to back problems in older years, but this is not the case. We are still unsure which particular postures cause back pain, but it certainly appears that no one posture is linked to back pain. We do know that heavy lifting with a twist in bent postures can be risky for disc injuries. This is mostly based on biomechanical studies on human tissues. Remember to bend your knees when getting things out of the dishwasher and keep boxes and objects close to your body when you lift them and not at arms length. These are good rules of thumb for safe back care.
4. Do Some Back Strengthening Exercise
Most people will have heard of Pilates these days and the idea of back strengthening has been around a while now in one form or another. Whilst there is no direct evidence linking focused exercises for particular trunk muscles to less back pain, there is definitely evidence to suggest that general body exercise incorporating strengthening of the trunk as a whole can be beneficial in reducing back pain episodes. Try Pilates and if you enjoy it, it works for your schedule, and you find it keeps you exercising regularly, keep at it. But remember that any form of general body conditioning including brisk walks, gym based exercising, aqua aerobics or other fitness classes can be beneficial too. Find the activity that suits your lifestyle or ask a Physiotherapist to set you a succinct programme you can do at home. Do whatever fits into your lifestyle best and will ensure you keep doing it.
5. Don’t Be Afraid
This is a tough one. Anyone that has experienced back pain will long remember the horrible feeling of spasm and pain it induces. You may also have had some temporary nerve sensations or a feeling of not being able to move when it started. This can be scary. Often as symptoms naturally resolve and heal we become more confident with movements and day-to-day activities. Sometimes we can become fearful of repeated episodes of back pain and start to avoid certain movements or activities we associate with risk. This is a vicious circle as we then become less used to doing those movements or activities and limit our fitness for doing them. Fear can also have a great impact on the brain and processing centres where pain is produced. It can heighten the ‘alertness’ of certain areas of the brain and produce faster or more easily triggered responses, leading to more pain and symptoms even if no harm is done to the tissues. It is invaluable to seek reassurance and education from physiotherapists or other health professionals to help you better understand your symptoms and back pain, so that you are less fearful. Use an element of caution when reading online, the Internet is great but there are a lot of mixed messages out there and this can further confuse you. Ask the questions you are thinking in your mind and get clear answers so you are fully equipped to manage your own back. This can ensure you recover as quickly as possible and don’t worry over the length of time symptoms last or what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
We hope that these quick and easy steps will help you to better manage your back pain and get on the road to recovery. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us for individual assessment and management strategies on 020 7884 0374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.