The vast majority of people will experience at least one episode of lower back pain (LBP) at some point. For a lot of cases this will self-resolve quickly, but for others they might need some help.
Common causes of back pain
Osteopaths are equipped to help with a range of causes of LBP. Common causes include:
- tight or strained muscles
- a stiff or irritated joint in the spine
- irritation of the sacroiliac joint (the back of the pelvis), especially during pregnancy
- a sprained ligament in the back
- a bulging disc – note that they never actually “slip” out of place!
Many of these could be totally asymptomatic, which is one reason why sending a back pain patient for imaging is not routinely recommended. If you were to MRI a cross section of the population, you’d see a lot of unexpected disc bulges. You would also see perfectly intact discs in people who have disc-like pain.
If your pain keeps returning, whether following a pattern or not, you might want to get to the root cause of it. Your osteopath is in the perfect position to help you! We look at the body as a whole to see what might be feeding into your pain. One common link that surprises our patients is how otherwise-asymptomatic stiffness in the upper back can cause the lower back to over work.
It’s easy to jump to a conclusion that your back must be “weak”- but don’t fall into this trap. Your back needs to be strong even just to allow you to walk or get out of bed. Pain is not an indicator of weakness.
Back pain is linked to overexerting or being too sedentary, so the best thing you can do for it is to be balanced. Going from 0-100 at the gym is more likely to cause you more pain than prevent it, but likewise you don’t want to avoid the gym completely. Bed rest is not recommended for normal LBP. Your osteopath can advise exercises to keep you in the right range of activity.
Occasionally we get a call from someone stuck in sudden agony. This can be really scary to experience, you can be absolutely certain that you’ve damaged something. But pain is not an indicator of damage, nor is it an indicator of prognosis. Sometimes the people in the most acute pain are the ones who are moving around pain free a week later. If you do find yourself in this situation you are welcome to give us a call.
If this happens to you outside of clinic hours, there are a few things you can do to help yourself.
- Try not to panic!
- Keep moving gently: this helps to prevent you from seizing up which would worsen the pain. It also tells the brain that movement is safe and sets you on the path to recovery from the very start.
- Try a cold compress for pain relief. Your aim is not to make the area go numb, 10 minutes of cold per hour is fine. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. A cool wet flannel or bag of peas in a tea towel are good choices for this.
- Expect to be more stiff and achey in the morning. Lying still for a few hours gives inflammation time to build up which is not an inherently bad thing- it happens for a reason. Take it slow when getting out of bed and get started with that gentle movement.
Does this sound like your back? Book in today to get it under control.