Here are a list of the top 10 questions that back pain sufferers ask me, and my answers.
Q1: Why do I have backpain?
Back pain is very common and about 80% of us will suffer from back pain at least once in our lives. The human back is a complex structure comprised of muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, bones. Sometime the cause of backpain is never located. We aren’t meant to treat our bodies like we do now – sitting so long and carrying out repetitive movements, and dealing with so much daily stress.
• Strain – the most common cause of back pain is a strain where we have strained a muscle or ligament, and the muscle may go into spasm – we have lifted something awkwardly, something that was too heavy, or we moved in an awkward way.
• Structural –some examples: a ruptured disc which causes pressure on a nerve and results in pain. A bulging disc bulges and we get pressure on a nerve. Sciatica can be caused by a disc pressing on a nerve. Arthritis can cause spinal stenosis where there is less space around the spinal cord so that nerves are affected. Some people have an abnormal curvature of their spine.
• Posture and bad habits – back pain results because of everyday activities – the way we sit at work, push or pull, carry something, a repetitive action, standing too long, sitting too long, bending down for too long, over-stretching, driving for too long, a head forward posture when using a computer, using a mobile phone too much.
• Stress – if we have a stressful job, anxiety, depression, stress at home, an unhappy relationship, then these are all factors which can cause our muscles to go into spasm and cause back pain.
Q2: Should I rest?
When most people have a flare up of back pain, their first reaction is to head to bed and lay still. Maybe we think that we are giving the damaged tissues chance to heal, and plenty of doctors still give this advice. However, rest isn’t as helpful as we might think. Studies show that extensive bed rest is not only unhelpful for back pain, it may actually cause recovery time to lengthen.
Q3: If I shouldn’t be resting, what should I do?
Research shows that tissues recover faster if they are used gently. Try to remain as active as possible. Do some gentle regular walking. Even if it is only around the house, keep moving. Start gently, just five minutes, and slowly increase. Gentle yoga stretches help to maintain flexibility.
Q4: Is bed rest is never a good idea for back pain?
Research shows that for anything more than short periods, ie an hour or two a day, then the answer is no. If the back pain is severe then take a break between activities.
Q5: Why should prolonged bed rest be avoided when I have back pain?
Lack of activity can cause muscles to grow stiff and weak. The intravertebral discs can lose nutrients and become dried out and inflexible. Soft tissues can lose their flexibility and become more vulnerable to injury. The spine needs movement to move nutrients around the cells and into the vertebral discs. Prolonged resting means that the muscles can stiffen and make the back feel more tight and less mobile.
Q6: What if I literally can’t move?
If unable to move, rest until the pain calms, and then move gently and slowly. An odd fact is that people living alone recover faster because they don’t have anyone to bring them food and drink and so they move more!
Q7: What is one simple thing I can do to help myself right now?
Drinking more water decreases back pain. Clients who have been to see me for a Bowen session will know that I ask them to increase their water consumption. We all need water to be able to digest our food and eliminate waste. Water lubricates and cushions our joints, plumps up our skin cells, flushes waste products from all our cells and allows nutrients to replenish them. We can’t survive without water. Some medications dehydrate us, as can exercise, coffee and alcohol, salt in our diet and hot weather so it is important to take these factors into consideration. However, a study has shown that people who are well hydrated when suffering from lower back pain experienced more pain relief after back manipulation than those who were dehydrated. Don’t wait until back pain strikes to increase water intake, do it now!
Q7: What can people do to prevent back pain in the future?
• Lose weight around their middle.
• Walk regularly 20 to 30 minutes a day or three x 10 minute short walks.
• Join a yoga class, a pilates class, or swim.
• Stand and sit tall.
• Don’t sit for longer than half an hour.
Q7: When should I seek immediate medical advice for back pain?
NHS guidance says that if a person has back pain and:
• numbness or tingling around their genitals or buttocks
• difficulty peeing
• loss of bladder or bowel control
• chest pain
• a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
• unexplained weight loss
• a swelling or a deformity in their back
• it doesn’t improve after resting or is worse at night
• it started after a serious accident, such as after a car accident
these problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be checked urgently so contact a GP or NHS 111 immediately.
Q8: Will taking paracetamol help?
Research shows that paracetamol does not stop lower back pain and GP’s should consider prescribing exercise instead according to the study by the University of Sydney in the British Medical Journal.
Q9: How does Bowen Technique work to help back pain?
A study into the effects of Bowen Therapy on Back Pain showed that 89% of treatments given resulted in either a complete or partial recovery. By triggering a re-balancing of the muscles around the lumbar and pelvic areas, Bowen may help to stabilise a weak area, reduce compression around nerve roots, or improve circulation to the spinal discs, muscles and joints. Bowen is a whole body therapy – the therapist makes small, precise, rolling type movements over muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue in specific points of the body. There is no force used.
Q10: How long will it take before my back pain is gone?
This depends on many factors and is impossible to predict. Some of these factors are:
• The cause of the back pain.
• Fitness levels
• Stress levels
Please be aware that this information is for interest only and does not in any way seek to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Always consult a GP if concerned about back pain.
I hope that this article has been helpful. I’m available for a chat:
Thanks for reading,
Sue Jaycock MBTPA, MFHT, MCNHC, ITEC, PGCE
Bowen Therapist & Aromatherapist based in Daventry and Milton Keynes
0771 563 4747
Taking care of wellbeing – Choosewellbeing