5 things worth knowing about back pain
- Not all back pains are the same: There are many potential causes for lower back pain all of which require a different approach to improve. As there are different approaches to help with lower back pain there will never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating it. Likewise, everybody is different, even if you have the same diagnosis as someone else you both have different bodies that move and behave differently. You both have different daily physical requirements (work, sports, home) and as such you may both progress down the treatment and management path differently.
- Education is important: A large part of treating lower back pain is in the education. After all, it is your back, not your practitioners and understanding your diagnosis is vital to your improvement. Having a solid understanding of how to manage your pain will empower you to make better decisions for the long term wellbeing of your back.
- Understanding pain: Alongside understanding your diagnosis is knowing what pain actually is. Contrary to popular belief, pain does NOT give you an accurate indication of damage to your body. Pain is actually a warning system. Your brain uses pain to help you avoid threatening positions or activity. Therefore the level of pain experienced may not necessarily correlate with the amount of damage to your tissues.
- Scans aren’t all that accurate: As the research expands we are learning with more and more certainty that what we see on scans (Xray, MRI, CT etc) does not necessarily correlate with pain. It is normal to see degenerative joints, disc bulges and the like on these scans without any of them causing symptoms. Especially as you grow older we tend to find more and more ‘abnormalities’ on these scans and a lot of the time they are just normal signs of aging (In the same way that grey hair and wrinkles are a normal part of aging). The best way to correlate what we see on scans and your pain is through a thorough history and physical examination.
- Your back pain will get better: As mentioned above, pain is an output of the brain, it is essentially a warning signal. When we injure our back our brain remembers that episode (where you were, the position you were in, how you did it etc). The next time you are in a similar circumstance or in a similar position the brain will send out warning signals and you may feel pain. As the brain becomes more ‘confident’ with your back in these positions the pain signals will disappear. The key to getting to this stage is to progressively expose your back to those positions it feels vulnerable in. This process is slow and controlled but with a good program the pain will subside.