12 Tips to Help you Manage your Back Pain

12 Tips to Help you Manage your Back Pain

Hands up if you have had back pain.

Here at Compass Physio Tullyallen and Castlecomer our most common condition seen is back pain.

Back Pain is experienced by over 80% of us during our lifetime.

As time passes we are getting a greater understanding of the dos and donts of back pain and some of the evidence may be surprising.

This article is inspired from some research by Ireland’s back pain experts.

Top Things to know about back pain:

One of the biggest healthcare costs is for the ongoing treatment of back pain. In fact audits show that back pain treatment costs twice as much as cancer and diabetes combined.

  1. Back pain is not due to there being something out of line in your spine or your pelvis being out of place. This is a common report from clients attending Compass Physio that they have been told the above. In very rare cases there may be a change in spinal alignment but this is very infrequent. Quite often people attend clinicians for adjustments or manipulations and this can lead to symptoms relief. The relief is often due to a reduction is muscle spasm rather than structures being out of place and realigned.
  2. Back Pain is very common and should not worry people. As mentioned previously back pain can occur in over 80% of the population. Circa 85% of people will feel an improvement in back pain after an acute episode in the first two weeks and circa 85% are fully recovered by 3 months post onset. The smaller percentage that remain are at risk of longer term back pain but that’s where the management of this is key.
  3. DO NOT Rest up in bed. This was the old style management we now have a clear understanding that this is not the best management. Keeping as mobile as is possible and carrying out even the most simple of household chores is a big benefit in preventing compensatory mechanisms and staving off bad habits. Research shows that staying in bed can in fact have a negative effect and increase pain and prolong the recovery time.
  4. Not getting enough sleep can influence back pain. This can be linked to not getting enough sleep before we have an episode of back pain that can lead to us being stressed and tense increasing our risk factors for back pain. Also when we have an episode of back pain this can slow down the recovery process of we are not getting enough sleep
  5. GET MOVING. Exercise is ok. Quite often we see fear avoidance from those who are suffering from back pain. Exercise is now known to be one of the best ways of managing back pain. Keeping the muscles conditioned and the general feeling of positivity associated with exercise is known to assist with positive outcomes.
  6. MRI scans are rarely needed.  Reassureogram is the term we use in the profession and the key consideration for me before sending someone for a scan is will it change the management. <5% of scans show a truly significant result. A good chartered physiotherapist like those at Compass Physio should be able to advise you of the most likely cause of your pain and guide you on the need for a scan or not.
  7. There will be abnormal findings on your MRI scan result. Results explained in a poor manner can increase fear avoidance and leave the client thinking there is something more seriously wrong with their back than is actually the case. It is normal to find the following. – Bulging Discs 52%  – Degenerative Discs 90% – Herniated Discs 28% – Arthritic Changes 38%. Abnormal Findings do not necessarily mean pain
  8. More Pain doesn’t always mean more damage. As odd as it sounds there are quite a number of factors that influence back pain. Stress, perception of pain, fear, fitness levels. Quite often what can happen is the nervous system can become system to pain and lead us to experience more pain than someone who perhaps has never had the symptoms before. Again perception of pain is the key here. Pain levels can increase but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with more harm being done.
  9. Rarely is surgery needed to manage your back pain. This is a common fear amongst those attending our clinic at Compass Physio with back pain but we make sure to explain that its uncommon for back pain to lead to surgery. Reviews have shown that the outcomes with non surgical management is similar to the surgical management in the medium to long term.
  10. We may never find the perfect sitting posture. To sit up straight or not to sit up straight. There is mixed news out there about this one. The general understanding is that various postures suit varied sitting positions. They now believe that the key component is the ability to transition from one posture to another and not spend hours sat in a flexed posture at a desk
  11. Its ok to move, lift and bend. We all know someone who says I cant do any lifting because my back will go. These are the fear mechanisms that can delay people recovery from back pain. Quite often it may have been lifting that was the initial incident when the symptoms presented but this does not mean that you should avoid these in the long term. Returning to normal movement is a key part of the recovery.
  12. Long Term Back Pain can get better. People often just accept that they will have back pain in the long term if they have had a couple of flare ups and the pain persists. A good physiotherapist will look at all of the potential influencing factors to your pain. Being given a couple of stretches of having a massage is not always the answer and looking at lifestyle, fitness levels, stress etc etc can help the management. Her at Compass Physio we now offer a Back Pain management course to get you back fit and active.
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Paddy Mulligan MISCP
Chartered Physiotherapist
Compass Physio