MYTHBUSTERS: BACK PAIN AND BACK PROBLEMS
Back pain is very common for both men and women with almost two out of three individuals suffering from lower back pain at some time in their lives. Fortunately, back pain often only lasts a couple of weeks and usually gets better on its own.
According to the British Chiropractic Association, more people in the UK are now experiencing back or neck pain each week than they were five years ago. One of the reasons for this rise is an increase in the number of Brits sitting for long periods of time due to work. Other reasons include exercise, sports and sleep.
There are many myths surrounding back pain and problems but what is really the truth?
Know Your Back
Your back is made up of your spine which consists of 24 vertebrae, with discs in between to act as shock absorbers. These are connected to muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons. Below the vertebrae, at the bottom of your spine, are the bones in your sacrum and coccyx.
Causes of Back Pain
With back pain, it’s often hard to tell what exactly is causing the pain. However, it’s often related to muscle strain or tendons and ligaments around your back. It also may have been caused by a trauma, a specific event or movement. It’s often hard to know!
Straining, twisting, or lifting something heavy can cause sudden pain or it can come on gradually. It can also be linked to repetitive tasks at work or sitting in one position for a long time.
Being overweight puts you at more risk of back pain. It can also occur from normal ‘wear and tear’ on the bones of your spine as you get older.
Managing Your Back Pain
Consider strengthening exercises
This can include activities such as yoga or swimming to allow you to get active while reducing the impact on your joints and spine.
Consider your accessories
Choose flat shoes instead of high heels as they can alter alignment, posture, and the centre of gravity. Avoid heavy shoulder bags – to minimise the risk consider a pull along bag on wheels.
Apply heated pads and cold compresses
Using heated pads and cold compresses on your back can provide short term relief from back pain.
Think of your sleeping and sitting positions
Consider the age of your mattress. You could also try laying on your back with a pillow under your knees. This will neutralise your spine. Avoid slouching and consider your spine when sitting on a sofa. It may be comfortable to sit with your feet to the side, but this causes a twist in the spine that can cause issues over time.
Taking pain relief can allow you to stay more mobile and avoids muscles tensing up further.
Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods, when at a desk, standing or driving. Take regular micro-breaks for change of posture. Consider the option of a height-adjustable desk to alternate from sitting to standing. Alternate tasks throughout the day as much as possible.
Avoid heavy lifting
Use any lifting equipment available or ensure safe techniques.
See an expert
If your back pain does not improve after a few weeks, visit a physio, osteopath or talk to your GP.
At the Doctors Clinic Group, we’ve teamed up with a partner physiotherapist to provide video and face to face physiotherapy consultations. If you have been experiencing back pain for longer than a few weeks, a physio can offer tailored advice and support to find the best treatment for you.
In the meantime, let’s look at some other myths related to back pain and problems:
MythBusters: Back Pain Treatment and Back Problems
MYTH: There is a standardised fix for the majority of back pain and problems.
FACT: There are few standardised approaches to diagnosis and treatment of back problems. Experts will often disagree on the diagnosis and most appropriate treatment for back pain.
MYTH: Rest is the key to recovery from back pain and back problems.
FACT: Rest may be recommended for back pain to reduce the pressure on the discs in the spine. Therefore, a short period of rest may help to reduce back pain however any more than this may be detrimental to recovery.
MYTH: Heat and massage will help back pain.
FACT: These therapies can reduce back pain in the short-term, but do not provide a long-term solution to back problems.
MYTH: Long-term pain indicates I need back surgery for my back problems.
FACT: If back pain has reached the chronic stage, spine surgery has a reduced likelihood of being successful. Typically, symptoms that suggest back surgery that might be helpful occur early.