Myth 1: Exercise causes back pain.
Fact: Exercise can help treat and prevent back pain.
Myth 2: Bed rest is an effective way to treat back pain.
Fact: Bed rest will often make back pain worse.
Myth 3: Back pain requires prescription medication to treat.
Fact: Some of the best treatments are over-the-counter meds, ice and heat.
Myth 4: Exercise is dangerous for me – I need to protect my back from moving.
Fact: Lack of exercise often makes the back ache worse.
Myth 5: Back pain is a normal part of ageing.
Fact: You don’t have to accept back pain, often back pain is due to poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle so can affect us at any age.
A common effect of back pain is that we tend to become fearful of movement or believe that a certain movement will damage something. We think we are doing the right thing by protecting our back, when in fact we should be moving and doing physical activities that move the spine normally. Moving and bending consistently with a rigidly protected back will prevent your recovery, not help it! By not bending and moving correctly this places strain to already sensitive soft tissues. Also, no movement could weaken the muscles making the back aches and pains worse.
When we are protective and guard the muscle the back is not moving as it is meant to. Our anxiety and fear of moving the back can generate altered movement and ongoing stiffness. Restoring confident fluid movement in the spine will over time make it less sensitive to flare ups. When starting to exercise, it may well make your back sore, it is important to be aware of this – but this soreness does not mean it is getting worse. It is similar to moving and exercising an ankle after a sprain.
Getting the rate of exercise right and gradually increasing is important. Our exercise plan should be a journey of sustained commitment, not too timid, not too aggressive in our approach and aim should be to achieve a slow and steady increase in the amount of activity we can do. Ease up when you need to but always keep moving forwards. Even if your back pain and stiffness is long standing the structures of the spine must move in order to recover and function correctly for everyday life.
Developing an understanding of the body and visualising what is happening inside the back makes exercise and movement easier and helps to reduce the fear. Remember our backs are surrounded by many strong muscles and ligaments, and these require movement. Our muscles work together to keep the spine balanced and in control. All the muscles around the spine play an important role in making smooth coordinated movement possible. If your wrist just came out of plaster after a fracture, you would be told to get it moving as soon as possible to help the healing and return the joint to normal. Compare this to your back, which is made up of lots of joints which need fluid movement not over-protection and guarding.
In overcoming our fear of movement or certain activities, our own attitude makes a big difference. The more fearful or tense we become the more difficult it is to move freely. This is where strong resilience, staying calm and clear thinking are important for recovery.
Benefits of Movement:
- Reduces muscle spasm and tension
- Improves blood flow, reduces inflammation and provides nutrients to the area in pain
- Increases soft tissue mobility
- Increases confidence to complete everyday activities
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases strength and flexibility
- After 10 minutes of exercise, the brain produces ‘happy chemicals’ called endorphins that have a calming effect on nerves
Our osteopaths and physiotherapists at Woodside Clinic are very happy to advise you on the exercises to help with back ache and we also offer small group or 1 to 1 Pilates and yoga classes which may be appropriate for you. Please call us on 01582 608400 or 01525 372 477 to book an appointment.