What You Need to Know About Back Pain and How to Get Relief
Back pain is the most common reason people miss work and seek medical help. Most people have had, or have known, someone who has suffered with back pain – although it does affect everyone differently. Common symptoms are pain felt in the middle of your back, or pain which moves down from the back into your buttocks and leg. Sciatica, disc bulging, herniation and muscle spasm are the most common forms of back pain.
Most people don’t realize that back pain can be significantly lessened, and even entirely prevented. Unfortunately, many of us have a “ don’t fix what’s not broken” mentality. The reality is that back pain typically doesn’t usually occur from a single incident but instead develops after repeated irritation. Most of our day-to-day activities require us to function in a bent-over position: pushing a wheel barrow, gardening, sitting for long periods, brushing your teeth, putting your pants and shoes on. We repeatedly stress our spine in one direction (forward bending). This repetition advances the wear and tear of our spine and discs, which will one day lead to an acute back pain episode.
Our Physiotherapists frequently hear “I wasn’t doing anything to hurt my back, all I did was bend over to put on my socks in the morning.” As mentioned earlier it takes a long time of repetitive bending to get to the point of acute pain. Generally our patients have a long history of bending, twisting or sitting in their daily life. Recognizing that you are doing this repetitive harmful action is the first step to helping your back. You don’t have to stop these motions and positions, but learning to counter balance these repetitive harmful movements will help.
If you are suffering with back pain right now and don’t know what to do to get better, don’t worry – there is hope! Successful treatments are available to help you resolve your pain. There are many types of back pain (with various causes) and thus each requires a different treatment plan. Below, you will find the most common exercises used in therapy today. If your symptoms do not improve, or worsen, after doing these exercises, you need to seek professional help. Phyiotherapists have about 7 years of university education and are experts at helping to get people with back pain better. A Physiotherapist’s job is focused on getting you better and active again, using evidence based treatments. Surgery is very rarely needed because Physiotherapy treatments that have been proven to work!
Common Causes to Back Pain Include:
Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement may strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you’re in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back may cause painful muscle spasms.
Bulging or Herniated disk. Discs act as cushions between the individual bones (vertebrae) in your spine. Sometimes, the soft material inside a disc may bulge out of place or rupture and press on a nerve. Being in a bent over position repetitively or for prolonged periods causes the material in the disc to push to one side and can potentially break through or bulge the disc material causing pain.
Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. This is like excessive wear and tear. Most times it is caused from an alignment issue and compensation over many years. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
Skeletal irregularities. Back pain can occur if your spine curves in an abnormal way. Scoliosis, a condition in which your spine curves to the side, also may lead to back pain, but generally only if the scoliosis is quite severe.
Osteoporosis. Compression fractures of your spine’s vertebrae can occur if your bones become porous and brittle.
Daily exercises to prevent or help reduce back pain:
Back Extensions: We need to reverse the forward bending stresses we put on our back by arching backwards frequently as well. Our Physiotherapists recommend that you arch back 10 time after you do any repetitive forward bending activities life gardening or prolonged sitting.
Side Bridge: Keeping your muscles strong in your “Core” area is very important. Our Physiotherapists recommend you do this exercise daily, hold for 5secs then repeat 10 times
Wall Squat: We have all heard that you should use your legs when lifting heavy objects. This is very true. Most of us get lazy or our legs are too weak, so we use our back – which is an accident waiting to happen. Our Physiotherapists recommend you do wall squats daily, hold as long as you can and repeat 10 times
If any of these exercises increase your back pain stop them immediately, and seek out the help of a Physiotherapist, who will perform a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of your back pain and develop a treatment plan unique to you.