So you have woken up with back pain and you have probably also searched online to see what the best solution is for it. Some of the advice may have recommended for you to be active and keep moving. Following this if you have gone for a walk you quickly realise that your back pain is still there or even getting worse.
So what should you do? Do you keep walking and have the mindset of “no pain no gain”? Or do you take rest to stop the pain getting further worse?
There are a number of things that can cause low back pain. Until you find the source of the problem it’s difficult to provide specific advice for your current symptoms.
However in most cases if your pain is being aggravated, even by advice you have read from seemingly reputable sources online (or anywhere else) you must stop that activity. That pain is your body’s way of telling you that this is a crisis situation and that it must be addressed and resolved properly.
You must avoid anything that is aggravating your lower back pain, even if it is walking or moving. So get into a position that makes the lower back pain more comfortable. This allows the body to start healing those tissues, rather than further injuring and aggravating that problem.
If you are unfortunate enough to be suffering with some sort of lower back pain and it just so happens to be at a time with it’s rather difficult to get hold of a health professional, such as on the weekend, during a national holiday, or when abroad in a remote area.
There are a few things you can do in the interim until you are able to get to a health professional. Remember this is not a fix, but just a simple way to potentially help you through the uncomfortable period.
Even if it starts to feel better it’s still worth taking the time to seek professional advice to be fully sure.
The first thing you must do is avoid anything that aggravates the pain. Although some general advice says to keep active, if that particular activity is aggravating your symptoms then stop – this is NOT a no pain, no gain scenario (quite the opposite)
Calm The Fire
Most of the time a lot of pain is due to inflammation. That means it’s hot and red, so we need to cool it with ice. Of course make sure you wrap the ice in a thin towel otherwise you may end up with frost bite on top of all the other problems you already have going on.
WIth an area that is inflamed, it’s “flame-atory” meaning it’s hot, so applying heat can potentially add more fuel to the fire.
If it was just muscle tightness then it may be suitable to apply heat – however the real question then becomes “Why is that muscle tight?”
So if you’re unsure go for the ice. The other advantage is your nerves don’t work very well at low temperatures anyway, so this can help give some comfort and relief by dulling the pain.
If you are suffering with lower back pain when bending there are a number of different structures that we need to be looking at, addressing and potentially be concerned about too.
When we look at a typical spine, it is made up of bones called vertebrae. In the lower back (lumbar spine) there are a total of 5 vertebrae.
The bumps on the back are called spinous processes. These are what you can see or feel when you run you hand down the back. Near these spinous processes are the joints which allow the vertebrae to articulate with each other. These joints are called facets.
In between the vertebrae are the spinal discs. We want these to be nice and spongy to allow for efficient shock absorption from any movements of activity.
When bending the lower back, these discs can get more compressed, which can cause them to bulge if there is already a problem there. This bulge can potentially pinch the nerves as they are exiting the spine.
Pain can also be caused by the stretching of the capsule around the facets if bending forwards. These facet joints can get inflamed, and if they get inflamed to the point where they start pinching on nerves they can also add to pain.
Softer structures in the area such as ligaments and muscles can get stretched when bending. If they are tight due to an injury or poor posture the pain may be an indication of requiring some guided lifestyle changes.
So as you can see there is not an easy fix such as performing a stretch or sitting a certain way to “cure back pain”. As I always say, pain is a symptom indicating that there is a problem. It’s the cause that needs to be addressed to remove it.
Have you, or do you know someone who has been suffering with low back pain for a short while or a really, really long time, perhaps for many years?
Most people suffering with low back pain get very concerned, really stressed and worried. Quite rightly so! The pain is a good indication that something is wrong with the body, and needs urgent attention.
A lot people tend to contact loved ones for tips or advice. Others may look online for an attempt at a self diagnosis. However the best thing to do in any case is seek professional advice.
I see thousands of patients every year suffering with low back pain, or some sort of symptoms. At the first meeting they often tell me “Trishul, I’ve tried everything!”
That’s when I will take down a detailed case history, asking questions about what they have been up to, what has been going on in their lives seeking the possible cause of their symptoms.
I will also ask about what they have tried, what makes it feel better or worse. They may have tried painkillers, heat, ice, certain exercises, some gadgets or supports. Due to sheer desperation to find relief they attempt all these things, sometimes at the same time, causing even more confusion and chaos within the body. Ultimately in a lot of cases these leads to a point where they are in a state not able to fix the problem themselves.
Some people get very worried about seeking professional advice, as if by chance if they don’t confirm a diagnosis, then it may not actually exist. (This is madness in my opinion!)
The sooner you get a professional diagnosis, the better the prognosis (chances of improving the condition) and the more efficient it is to get onto the correct path to fix the problem.
I was speaking with someone recently who told me they had been taking a whole bunch of painkillers. I explained that painkillers are not going to help the problem in the long term, because their condition was not due to a deficiency in painkillers. In fact I have yet to meet someone who has a deficiency in painkillers (no such condition exists).
Another person I spoke with said they were not sure why they suddenly had this pain, because they had done nothing out of the ordinary. However, the thing they had not understood is whatever they had been doing, in terms of any lifestyle choices they had made, was slowly but surely leading them on a path where their body could no longer compensate, and therefore ending up with this enormous pain!
We get everything checked regularly to prevent problems, from teeth and eyes, to cars and heating boilers in your home. Your spine and body are the same! (Most people probably look after their cars better than their own body). By having regular check ups, it increases your chance of preventing a problem from occurring in the first place. In the off chance that a problem occurred anyway, then because of those regular check ups they get picked up quicker, meaning the prognosis is better – yay!
However if you are already in a lot of discomfort then we need to find the root cause of your problem. You would never expect a surgeon to ask you to jump up onto the surgery table to perform surgery at your first consultation without first having taken the time to go through a full case history, a thorough examination and determine the best course of care for you. The same is true for your chiropractor or osteopath. Before I treat any patient, the reason I have been able to achieve great results is by carefully analysing that patient’s condition, and prescribe the best solution for their problem based on published research and my years of experience.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on any of my socials and I will always take the time to help you out.