Updated: Mar 25, 2021
In Australia we spend as much as 80% of our day at work sitting, and it’s taking years off our lives! Back pain is very common and affects people of all ages. While it generally improves in a few days, or sometimes weeks, back pain can continue for a long period.
Several things can cause back pain, including your posture, a sudden movement bending forward and twisting, a fall, an injury, or a medical condition. The pain is usually related to the way the bones, discs, muscles, tendons and ligaments work together.
Amanda McDonald, physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, says that fixing chronic lower back pain is like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle, and it needs to be managed properly.
1. Listen to your body - Move, but within your limits. Don’t go and play a game of golf or run a marathon while you’re injured! The trick is to listen to your body and do gentle walking and gentle stretching. Your physio can devise a safe recovery plan depending on the extent of your injury.
2. Let go - People with back pain tense up as a protective response. So before you strengthen, you need to let go! Relaxing muscles around your trunk when you have back pain is helpful, especially in positions like standing and sitting. Pilates or yoga classes that focus on mobility, strength and stability are beneficial.
3. Breathe it out - When muscles are tense, they tighten and increase pressure on your nerves and tissues, which can make the pain worse. Relaxation can help break the pain-tension cycle. Breathing deeply also helps to stabilise the core, which in turn, can support the back and relieve pain.
4. Strengthen your core -The problem of lower back pain can usually be linked to not having a strong enough core. These deep core muscles work together to support and stabilize the spine when we move or lift a load. Core control exercises help to alleviate back pain by training you to co-ordinate activity of the trunk muscles. Make sure you have an individual assessment [first] with a health professional who can prescribe specific exercises just for you.
5. First Aid – Ice and heat are effective tools to have in your pain management kit. Try using ice for severe pain and heat for dull, aching muscular pain. Also check in with your local GP for advice on medications.
6. Don't rush into a scan - Although an x-ray, CT or MRI may occasionally be helpful, disc bulges, disc degeneration, arthritis are common in the pain-free population. It can be costly and research has shown that musculoskeletal damage is not necessarily the reason for your pain. Consider conservative management of physiotherapy treatment and exercise prior to this process.
So message is, if you are experiencing back pain yourself, it is important not to restrict your movement too much. Make sure you talk to your physiotherapist as to what movements will be beneficial at the specific time. Even if your back is very painful, slow and gentle movements are better than lying still in bed for long periods. If you keep your back moving, flexibility and mobility will slowly return at the right time.
Get in contact today with one of our physiotherapists if you are dealing with back pain - there are lots of ways that physiotherapy and movement can help!