Your back is stronger than you may realise
Most people will experience back pain during their lifetime. It can be disabling and worrying but it is very common and rarely dangerous. The spine is a strong, stable structure and not easily damaged, so in most instances it is a simple sprain or strain. In these cases, most people recover reasonably quickly.
Prolonged rest and avoiding activities can lead to higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and longer absence from work. In the first few days of a new episode of back pain, it's sensible to avoid activities that may aggravate the situation, but generally staying as active as possible and returning to all usual activities gradually is important in aiding recovery.
While it's normal to move differently and more slowly in the first few days, this altered movement can be harmful if continued in the long-term. So getting back to normal movement asap is key.
Benefits of massage for back pain
Massage therapy is widely accepted in the medical community as a credible treatment for many types of back pain and research shows that massage has several potential health benefits for back pain sufferers, including:
Bending and lifting is okay
Bending and lifting are often related to causes of back pain, and while an injury can occur if something is picked up in an awkward or unaccustomed way, it’s most likely to just be a sprain or strain. The important thing is to be mindful when bending and lifting, keeping the core engaged and the body in good alignment.
Exercise can reduce and prevent back pain
Exercise is shown to be very helpful for tackling back pain and is also the most effective strategy to prevent future episodes. Start slowly and build up both the amount and intensity of what you do and don’t worry if it’s sore to begin with – you won’t be damaging your back.
There are some very beneficial stretching and strengthening yoga poses that, if done regularly, can really help to ease current pain and prevent further episodes. As many of you know, I'm a BIG fan of yoga, so would highly recommend this option. See the image and link below.
Painkillers will not speed up your recovery
Painkillers should only be used as a short-term option and in conjunction with exercise. They don't help to speed up recovery but rather they mask the symptoms, which can be helpful in the short-term whilst you regain movement but should be reduced as soon as possible.
Surgery is rarely needed
There are some uncommon back conditions where there is pressure on the nerves that supply the legs and the patient gets leg symptoms, such as pain, pins and needles or numbness.
For these conditions, surgery can help the leg symptoms but it is important to understand that it is not always required. On average, the results for back surgery are no better in the medium and long term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise. So a non-surgical option, which includes exercise and activity, should always come first.
Get good quality sleep
The importance of sleep in tackling back pain has become increasingly clear in recent years. This is because it reduces stress and improves your overall feeling of wellbeing, making you less susceptible to the triggers of pain in the first instance and helping you to cope when it does occur. Aim for 7.5-8 hours a night and, as far as possible, try to get into a regular routine.
You can have back pain without any damage or injury
Many physical or psychological factors can cause back pain, and often a combination of these are involved. They could be:
If it doesn’t improve, seek help but don’t worry
If your back pain does not improve after 6–8 weeks (when you've addressed the points raised above), make an appointment to see your GP or physiotherapist.
Click here for an explanation of these yoga poses.