You Might Be Pleased To Know, You’re Not The Only One With Back Pain!
It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 of us WON’T get back pain. This means that there is an 80% likelihood of you getting back pain at some point in your life. Back pain is a huge cause of disability nowadays, and costs individuals and companies alike 100’s of millions of £’s every year.
But don’t worry! We wrote this to help you & help relieve, prevent and reduce your back pain. Below are some of the topics we cover, so chose the parts that are most helpful for you!
1. Bad Posture Causing Back Pain
Specifically, bad posture, puts stress on the body, slouching with a forward head posture is probably one of the biggest contributors to that really “insidious” back pain. You’ll know it if you’ve had it, the type of back pain that comes on really slowly that you really can’t pinpoint when it started or what caused it.
Because most of you reading this will spend considerable amounts at a desk or sat down (don’t forget commuting counts too) you rack up a considerable mileage on your bottom! Sitting-down loads discs in the lower back by about 20% more than when standing. This is then made worse by a significant forward head carriage and rounding of your shoulders.
The spine is like a long stick, and as long as the top of the stick is over the bottom, all is well and as it should be. Unfortunately the further forward the top, relative to the bottom, the more pressure builds. So spending the time standing (which is supposed to be better for your back) turns into an activity that causes more problems.
Thus, over the course of a day, your poor back is trapped between a terrible seated posture and an awful standing one. Over time this adds up and starts to lead to more ingrained lower back pain and eventually arthritic damage.
• Keep your shoulders retracted and chest opened out
• Keep Your head over your shoulders
• Take regular breaks from sitting at the desk to stretch out
• When sitting, keep your bottom in the back of the seat with your hips and knees at 90 degrees
• Adjust the height of the chair so your arms are by your side and elbows also at 90 degrees
• See our back exercises video on YouTube for strengthening techniques for your back muscles – Extra advice here
Other Back Pain Triggers
The two triggers above are the main ones, and this is really a consequence of modern living and the stress it places on your body. Quite often people whose parents & grandparents lived in a time of real “heavy duty” manual labor don’t always see an 8-hour shift behind a desk as being a problem. It Is.
Here are some more triggers, perhaps lesser known:
- Trauma (fall/car accident or similar)
- New Medication (side effects from)
The next few are much less common and will be accompanied by things like fever, possible nausea, and other abnormal symptoms, sometimes.
- Infection after surgery
- Kidney problems (like stones) – normally slightly higher than the “lower back” and very much on the side of the back.
- Pancreas problems (like pancreatitis) – typically around the level of your bra strap (ladies)
- Prostate problems (like prostatitis) – typically lower back and may also have problems passing water (gentlemen)
- Uterus/Gynaecological problems (like fibroids) – having seen some rather large fibroids in my time on X-Rays, these often go unnoticed for quite some time!
- Psoriasis can be a trigger for joint pain in general and sometimes back pain
Some Quick Self Help Tips For Your Back Pain!
- Stretching the back muscles (knee hugs) gently will help alleviate some of the pain in the back (not good as a long term strategy)
- Stretch hamstrings whilst lying on your back using a towel to pull the leg up (slowly)
- Ice or heat can be used to ease the inflammation or muscle spasm
- Natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric can help if you are a long term sufferer, (note, this won’t help the condition but will help you manage the pain without the side effects of drugs)
- See A Professional, If you’re in London (UK) contact the clinic for gentle, safe, and effective treatment.
Symptoms That You Should Watch Out For
In most cases, back pain does not require a visit to A&E however if you suffer low back pain as a consequence of trauma or you are getting any of the below symptoms, please do see a qualified medical practitioner immediately.
- Fever or the chills
- Any recent and unexplained loss of weight
- Inability to control your bladder or bowel movements (Cauda Equina syndrome)
- Severe abdominal pain associated with the back pain that is continuous (abdominal aortic aneurysm)
It is worth noting that the above are very uncommon, but should always be investigated. On the whole, most cases of back pain are not a medical emergency and can respond well to treatment in a non-emergency setting.
Unfortunately, we have seen a handful of these cases and we are very good at identifying them, so as a patient you can rest assured, that if you are showing any “red flags” we will take the necessary swift steps to ensure you are directed to the appropriate place.
Instant Relief For Back Pain!
Unfortunately there is no “instant relief” for back pain, but here are some quick tips that can really help relieve back minor back pain quickly.
- Apply Ice to the lower back to reduce excess inflammation (5 minutes 3x an hour). Repeat a couple of times a day.
- Apply heat to the lower back muscles to ease stiffness and spasm (10 minutes at a time) Repeat a couple of times a day.
- Gentle stretching of the gluteal & hamstring muscles (approx 2-5 minute hold per leg) Repeat a couple of times a day.
In most cases booking in for a consultation and treatment is the fastest way to get relief from back pain. The longer the back pain lasts the more other areas of your body will have to struggle to compensate for the injury, which will lead to “collateral damage”. Treatment is easy and an appointment that will rarely take longer than 45 minutes to 60 minutes, will quite often avoid possible weeks of discomfort.
Need more help?
If you’ve had a history of back pain follow these tips!
What you should do, and of equal importance, what you should avoid.
Forward bending is generally bad!
Avoid forward bending for the first 10 -15 minutes after waking up. This includes having a shave or putting on your socks/tights. Bending forward is particularly bad for disc problems and compresses the front part of your spine.
Although it will be a nice stretch, such activities like knee hugs or washing your face (whilst being bent over the sink) are best left for about 10-15 minutes. This is because they will compress any irritated or damaged discs in the lower back at a time of day they are particularly vulnerable.
Instead, walk around, and do other tasks like having breakfast or your morning tea/coffee first.
Abdominal exercises aren’t all helpful
Although core exercises are good for most if you have a history of specifically disc related problems, be very cautious with certain core exercises. Straight leg raises and some of the more advanced rotational exercises such as windmills should be avoided, or at least done with extreme care and competence.
Although more advanced exercises like that can be very powerful you MUST maintain good technique at all times and only progress to more advanced exercises when you are confident that your lower back injury is healed (typically 6 weeks or so – depending on the exact tissue injured).
Our generic advice to to steer more towards loading of the abdominal muscles with a neutral spine, things such as lunges with loading on one side, or abdominal rotations with a cable system are prefered methods of integrating your core effectively and safely.
Avoid heavy lifting
Lifting abnormally heavy loads, the sort that occurs when moving house, for example, should be avoided. Although the pain in your back may have eased relatively quickly, this normally occurs before the injury is fully healed. So be mindful of lifting heavy loads if you do have recurrent low back pain. Better safe than sorry.
On an equal note, a large number of men in particular normally admit that it was something very light – like a sock, that was lifted to trigger the most recent episode of back pain. Quite often you won’t engage your body as effectively when lifting a minimal weights and this normally affects the gentlemen more than the ladies. Be careful, it’s not much more effort to lift properly.
Get your ergonomics right
Ergonomics refers to your station at work. Most HR departments in larger corporations will know how costly bad ergonomics can be for the company.
This means that your HR department will likely be happy to ensure you have a good working posture to protect your spine. This is particularly important if you have a history of back pain or other spine related problems.
Check with your HR staff or ask for an Ergonomic assessment. In short, you should be sat up straight with a good supportive chair, the centre of the screen should be lined up with your eyes and your knees, elbows, and hips at 90 degrees.
Correct core strengthening exercises
The abdominal muscles make up a strong and stable corset that support your lower back and protect it on a day to day basis. Doing exercises like side plank and unilateral exercises that involve core stabilisation (ie. walking lunges). Other exercises like “woodchoppers” can be done in the gym using a cable machine to safely work the core.
Always try to fully exhale before the “contraction phase” of the exercise to get a maximal contraction through the entire abdominal muscular system. Remember to work the back part of the core too with exercises like back extensions are equally important!
Take regular breaks
Take regular breaks from sitting at the desk. Getting up and moving around frequently can do wonders for keeping the joints in not just your spine, but your whole body, lubricated well. Keeping your joints lubricated helps keep them healthy. You also avoid the degenerative changes and “creep” that occurs in ligaments.
When you hold ligaments stretched i.e. in a slouched position, for 15-20 minutes, remodeling and stretching of the ligaments occur, this is not good in 95% of cases. This permanent change can easily be avoided by taking breaks at work, such as standing to take phone calls.
Slipped & Bulging Discs
These are so often ignored and one of the big mistakes we see time and time again, is a failure to understand spinal structure and mechanics properly!
Most of the time this is an honest mistake, however it leads to advice such as… rest, exercises, injections or surgery, often fail to address the realy causes of a slipped disc.
Fortunately, patients are starting to move towards the likes of osteopaths and chiropractors nowadays for an earlier intervention. However, treating merely the symptoms of the problem and not fully addressing underlying abnormalities in the structure of your spine will not get the best results possible.
We find, that when patients (or their practitioners) don’t have an understanding of the patients spinal structure and the implications this has, they get reoccurring episodes.
The approach we take at The Mayfair Clinic is to firstly to diagnose the problem, treating the injured discs and surrounding musculo-ligamentous tissues. Patients will then be offered (where clinically relevant) X-Ray imaging to further the clinical understanding of your case. From here, treatment will be combined with home-based strategies, including but not limited to:
Strengthening exercises, stretches, lifestyle modification, orthotics, dietary plans.
So with the right approach, you can really help a slipped disc and prevent re-occurrence. Just because there isn’t pain, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there, and if you ignore the problem, the pain will come back in most cases sooner or later.
X-Rays Or MRI?
I do find that a lot of patients nowadays seem to be much more interested in getting an MRI done than a set of X-Ray films. You may have thought the same, and it is true, you cannot see the discs on an X-Ray, and the MRI has incredible views of the soft tissues and inflammation. Unfortunately, MRI’s will very rarely show any information that wasn’t already suspected. It is almost used to confirm a diagnostic test. Most of the case if have colleagues that will have referred for an MRI suspecting a slipped disc (for example). A treatment plan to help the patient with this problem will be formed, and the patient referred. Then the practitioner gets the report back and yes, it is a slipped disc, and the treatment plan is changed in no way what-so-ever.
Comparing this to an upright weight bearing X-Ray, I have very rarely referred for an X-Ray and not learned some extra useful information to further customize the treatment plan to the patient, and that stat is across thousands of patients (many of whom have had MRI’s prior to seeing me). This is partly because MRI’s are lying down 99.9% of the time and this does not show the true stresses that an upright existence places on your spine. Taking the previous example of the slipped disc that we spoke of earlier on MRI, there are numerous occasions where additional information has been gained from X-Rays to see why the patients have been struggling so they can benefit from an extra specific prescription of targeted rehab work.
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