Knowing what to do for the best after a flare up of back pain can be difficult. You want to get back to normal day-to-day life as quickly as possible but fearful it's going to “go” again, or you're going to do more harm than good. And undoubtedly you get a mixture of advice from friends and family who are suddenly “experts”… but whom do you listen too?
It can all be soooo confusing so let me help make things clearer for you, and get you back on your feet and active again safely.
Most of us are familiar with this now. Movement is one of the best things you can do to help ease back ache and stiffness. When you’re moving the muscles in your back are being gently stretched and worked so more blood flows into them bringing with it oxygen and all the good stuff which your body needs to heal and help you get stronger.
Let's not go crazy with this though. Starting with just walking around the house, then a short walk around the block and building it up from there.
It's best to move “little and often” rather than going from very little to a 10 mile hike!
Keep it flat
When going out walking initially, stick with flat and even ground. Avoiding hills (sorry no Roseberry Topping!) as hills put more pressure onto your lower back. So start with flat ground, then gradually bring in small inclines and declines.
When you're in pain your body will naturally want to protect itself, and often does so by tensing and tightening up the muscles around the spine. As you begin to recover your body needs help loosening the tightness in the stiff muscles. Gentle stretching of your lower back muscles, little and often throughout the day is perfect to loosen the stiffness, helping you feel great again.
MUST READ: Be gentle with yourself when stretching. It can be very tempting to “push it” as far as you can when stretching as you desperately want to feel better quicker. But the key is don't force it or push into pain, you just want to feel the muscle stretching. With time you’ll find you can gradually stretch it further and further as the tightness eases.
Sitting, particularly in a slouched position increases the pressure into you lower back by 6-10 times (ouch). Of course I appreciate you can’t go the rest of your life without sitting ever again. But over the next few weeks particularly, avoid sitting for long periods. Get up and move around every 20 minutes or so. And when you are sitting, a chair with a back support that you can sit back into is great!
Painkillers can be harmful.
Painkillers simply mask the pain, and therefore just mask the problem. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know something’s not right, so by taking the painkillers you could be giving yourself a false sense of security and potentially doing more harm than good. It's best to solve the problem altogether, you'll save yourself a lot a time and potentially health in the longer term.
Yes! Socialise. Get back to your normal life and meeting with friends and family. Back pain can really bring you down and you can feel "stuck in a rut" and low in mood. Making the effort to meet up with family and friends will help bring back your “feel good” endorphins. Be tactful though, maybe ask your friends to join you for a walk rather than sitting in a coffee shop for hours?
Back pain happens for a reason. It's often your body’s way of telling you something’s not right. Most commonly it’s because over time it's gradually become too stiff, tight and weak to be able to cope with the day-to-day stresses.
You might be thinking “I don’t stress my back day-to day”, and you don’t do any heavy lifting so what’s the problem? Let me ask you this, as you’re reading this now are you sitting? Remember, there’s potentially 6-10 times more pressure going through your back when we’re sitting then when we’re standing and lying down.
So protecting yourself from another attack of back pain is really important and soooo easy to do. Getting into a good routine of stretching and strengthening is great (it's getting into the routine that’s the hardest bit!).
If you're self disciplined you might be able to do this yourself at home.
Or if you're like me, you might find you need some help.
Classes are great to do this. Pilates and Yoga particularly as they are perfect for combining the stretching and strengthening you need. Also, knowing you’re being guided through the exercises safely. And to help make sure you stick with it, take a friend! Make the commitment together and therefore you can be accountable for each other.
Once your back pain eases, you’ll be tempted to go back to your normal routine. Most likely cutting down on the back exercises and moving as much as you should... and it's almost inevitable that at some point the back pain will come back again (this is when I see those familiar faces back in the treatment room!). We can be great at doing exercises and all the right things to get us better, but it's sticking with it thats the most important thing and where we struggle. Stopping doing exercises for your back means that over time your muscles will weaken again, and the joints will stiffen.
Only you can look after your back and health. Physiotherapists like myself are just here to help along the way. But it's down to you.
Please appreciate that everyone if different. So if you're currently suffering from back pain and want to know more about what causing it and make sure you're doing all the right things please message me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’d like to know a simple, gentle back stretching routine just get in touch and I’ll get that over to you also 🙂
My Core Wellbeing Limited
PS - Typo's are FREE 😀