They say over 80% of people will experience back pain at some stage in their lifetime. This can range in severity from a dull niggle to sharp shooting pain that can be incredibly debilitating. One thing is for sure it’s one of the most talked about injuries going around and as a result there is a heap of information out there about back pain. Some good, some bad.
So we thought we would try and clear up some common ‘myths’ and give a little advice on how you can best manage that nagging back.
MYTH #1 – DON’T MOVE
The old treatment of lying down and not moving when you have back pain couldn’t be further from what our body needs. Not moving will result in your muscles tightening further as a protective mechanism. The body is thinking no movement = no pain…right? Well in the very, very short term yes, but this is extremely short sighted and will cause more problems in the longer term. You should move as much as your pain will allow. This doesn’t necessarily need to be moving whilst upright, it could be as simple rocking your knees from side to side whilst lying down, gentle knee hugs or even using a trigger ball to help with releasing tension in muscles that are locked into protective spasm.
They key is to keep movements slow and controlled. Remember to brace through your core and BREATHE. Conscious deep breathing can help to relax muscle guarding as well as stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which we need to relax and recover.
MYTH #2 – I ALWAYS GET BACK PAIN, IT JUST HAPPENS EVERY NOW AND THEN, I CAN’T HELP IT
There’s always something you can do to help . Sure if you get the same treatment, don’t get treatment or just repeat your old patterns it’s more than likely you will continue to get recurring episodes of back pain. However if you’re not happy with that it may be time to try something different. They say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Dealing with back pain is no different. If you are doing the same old stretches, the same ‘core’ strengthening routine, getting the same treatment that you always had, then you should expect the same results.
It’s never too late to get a second opinion. A different perspective or an alternative approach to managing your pain & dysfunction may be what’s needed.
MYTH #3 – AVOID WEIGHT TRAINING
It goes without saying that technique is critical when it comes to protecting your back during weight’s training. If you do a squat with a giant arch in your back, or deadlift like your spine is the Sydney Harbour Bridge then you’re absolutely asking for trouble. With proper form and solid technique studies have shown great benefits to high load resistance training in people with back pain. Weight training has an enormous amount of benefits (we could legitimately decide an entire blog or even two) but with regards to your back doing specific weights training is important to help strengthen not only your back muscles but the surrounding muscles that help to support it.
You should check with your physio or trainer if you are unsure of what exercises you should be doing or if you are worried your technique isn’t up to scratch.
MYTH #4- X-RAY/MRI FINDINGS = DAMAGED BACK WHICH MAY NEVER GET BETTER
Scans can sometimes be the best thing as they can help to alleviate fear surrounding an injury. However we tend to find with backs that scans can actually add more fear into the mind of our patients. Disc and joint degeneration are unfortunately sometimes a normal part of aging but seeing this on a scan and reading a report that highlights all the wear and tear can be quite confronting. Furthermore scans can quite often correlate poorly with the symptoms one might experience. People can experience back pain without visible ‘positive’ scan results or conversely have no back pain with a scan result that would suggest otherwise. Of course different forms of imaging certainly have their place however we suggest checking with a physiotherapist or medical professional before running off to get a scan as it may not always be necessary. Most cases of back pain can be treated and fully rehabilitated without the need for any extra investigation.
Whats the take home message from this blog? The key points are simple. If you have back pain, try and get moving as soon as possible. As you improve keep progressing in terms of strengthening and mobility exercises. Don’t be scared to include weight training. Exercise is going to be one of the best ways to make sure your back pain doesn’t become an ongoing issue. If you have had recurring episodes of back pain – see someone. Get a proper assessment and make sure they have a longer term management plan for you. Back pain should never be ‘a thing that just happens’.