What you need to know about back pain
Having a sudden episode of back pain can be scary, fortunately it is rarely dangerous. There are various ways to help the pain settle yourself without the need for strong drugs or scans. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information out there that can be very unhelpful and can lead to your back pain becoming worse. We want to set the record straight with information that has come from the most up-to-date research available.
Here are the key facts that you need to know about back pain.
1. Back pain is rarely dangerous.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world. It can be scary and disabling, but it’s very rarely life threatening. The reason why it has become the leading cause of disability is down to the way it has been managed: there has been too much reliance on things like medication, scans, and unnecessary surgery and injections (Read more here). Chiropractors, Osteopaths and other manual therapists are working to change this.
2.Getting older does not cause back pain.
Lots of our patients worry about this! This belief that has been shown by research to not be true. You should not experience more and more pain as you get older, and many age-related changes that take place in our body are not necesarily painful. Evidence-based treatment is suitable for people of all ages, from the very young to the very old!
3. Ongoing back pain does not equal serious tissue damage.
Our backs are very strong, stable structures. If your pain has lasted for longer than three months, it is more likely due to other factors than because of serious injury to the tissues in your body. A lot of back pain begins with every day movements, rather than actual injuries (such as a fall or a car accident). It is everyday things such as stress, inactivity, or unaccustomed activity which can make your back more sensitive to movements or physical stress (such as lifting things).
There are a huge amount of studies which show that scans are not helpful in diagnosing back pain. Scans often show up things that sound scary, such as “disc bulges”, “degeneration”, “arthritis”, “disc protrusion”. (Find more about these here.) What the reports don’t tell you is that these findings are very common in people without back pain. Scans show us a snapshot in time, with no indication of whether you will get better, and they don’t tell you that most disc injuries get better with time.
5. If it hurts when you exercise, that doesn’t mean you’re causing damage.
Our spine can become sensitive to movement, particularly if we’ve had pain for some time. The pain you feel when you’re moving or exercising shows how sensitive the structures in your back are- not how damaged they are. It’s safe and normal to feel some pain when you start to move, and in fact movement and exercise are one of the most effective ways to treat back pain.
6. Poor posture does not cause back pain.
It is the length of time spent in any one position that causes aches and pains. Sittting in so-called “perfect posture” for 8 hours a day will be uncomfortable, as will slouching. What we need to do is keep moving regularly- motion is lotion!
7. A weak core does not cause back pain.
People with back pain often tense their core muscles to protect their back- being tense all the time isn’t helpful either! Learning to relax during every day movements can be important to ensure your muscles don’t stay tense and tight.
8. Our backs do not “wear out” with every day lifting and bending.
See point 2. Moving and loading our backs and moving them helps keep them stronger! Running, twisting, bending and lifting are all safe to do as long as you practice regularly and start gradually.
9. A pain flare up does not mean you have caused damage.
These can be very scary when they happen, but they are not usually related to tissue damage. Common triggers for an acute episode are often things like stress, tension, feeling low, inactivity or different activities and poor sleep. Managing these factors can reduce your chance of a flare up, and if you do experience one, instead of treating it like an injury, stay calm and keep moving.
10. Strong drugs, injections and surgery aren’t usually a cure for back pain.
They aren’t very effective for back pain in the long term. They also come with risks and can have unhelpful side effects. Low-risk ways of managing your pain are much better in the long term.
How we can help you
The care provided by Chiropractors and Osteopaths is very low risk and is recommended in all major evidence based guidelines for care across Europe and the World, including the NHS guidelines. For more information, follow the links below under “References and Further Reading.”
During our consultations, we aim to examine your back to identify what has happened and why, and then provide you with the best course of action which may or may not include treatment. As you can see from the above research-based facts, it is highly unlikely you would need scans or strong drugs.
Having reassurance from an experienced healthcare professional can be very important so you know that what you are doing to settle your back pain is appropriate. We can also offer advice, exercises and support for the future so you can learn to reduce your risk of future episodes of back pain.
What to expect when seeing our Chiropractor or Osteopath
- Our treatment plans are short: On average a patient may receive 3.5 treatments within a two week period.
- Within this initial two week period, our average patient sees a 71% improvement in their symptoms
- If you have had back pain for over 3 months, you may require more treatment. Our average patient receives a further 2 appointments over a total 3 month period following their initial consultation (average 5 appointments total)
- In this time, our patients see an almost 90% improvement in their symptoms.
The above information is taken from 443 completed patient assessments from Dec 2018 – Dec 2019.
If you would like to speak to us about booking an appointment, please call us on 01243 379693 or book online.
References and Further Reading:
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Guidelines for managing Low Back Pain with or without sciatica
Effectiveness of manual therapies: The Bronfort Report
NHS England: First Contact Practitioner for MSK Services
The Lancet Low Back Pain Series
Full text source: O’Sullivan. P., Canerio, J.P., O’Sullivan K., Lin, I., Bunzli, S., Wernli, K., O’Keeffe, M. Back to Basics: 10 facts about back pain. BJSM (2019).
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