When you’re struck down with back pain, it’s hard to know what to do. Especially if you’ve not had pain before – it can be pretty scary and not wanting to make it worse is at the forefront of your mind.
Along with the old wives’ tales and myths, there are are lots of things people have in common when trying to ease their pain, and not all of them are actually helpful.
Take a look at these common mistakes, and see if you’ve been falling foul to any of them…
1. Stopping exercise
Ok, so this is a tricky one. There are some things you may want to stop doing, in terms of not doing the thing which is aggravating your back, but by all means don’t stop completely.
One of the classic myths surrounding back pain is to stop exercise when in fact, exercise has proven to be one of the best things for easing pain.
The key point is with this though, stick within your own limits and don’t go crazy, putting your back under too much strain at a time when it’s already vulnerable.
Gentle exercise like walking, yoga or Pilates are ones to opt for when you’re suffering with your back.
2. Using ice packs
Again, we’re often told different things and can be given conflicting advice on whether to use heat or cold.
The general rule of thumb is that if it’s swollen, then use ice and if it’s in spasm, use heat. If you feel like your back has suddenly locked, or is feeling very stiff, then use heat. A warm bath or hot water bottle are ideal.
By applying extreme cold, if you are already in spasm, the shock of the cold will cause you to tense and potentially increase the spasm (and thus increase the pain)
3. Carrying on as normal
Ok, so this sounds a bit contradictory to my first point but hear me out
If your back has ‘gone’ and is causing you pain, you WILL need to adapt your routine somewhat. Not to be confused with stopping exercise, you will need to stop doing the things which may aggravate it further.
So if sitting down all day makes it seize up, try a standing desk, sitting on a gym ball or adapting your workspace to find a more comfortable position.
Likewise if you’re on your feet all day and it’s causing you too much pain, take more regular breaks if you can to give your back a rest.
4. Not getting the right kind of help
When you have a bad back, you should see someone who specialises in backs.
Your GP will give you some good, practical advice, and can prescribe any medication they feel will help, but with waiting lists very high for referrals to physios, they are limited to how much they can help then and there.
If you’re in significant pain, we would recommend seeing a back pain professional.
This may be someone like us, who specialises in strengthening and mobilisation, or it may be a physio, chiropractor or osteopath.
If cost is a barrier to you seeking help, look out for practices who offer a free initial consultation.
This is a good way to see if they’re a good fit for you, and to get some good initial advice without having to commit to anything financially.
5. Letting fear get the better of you
It IS scary when you have back pain...
Especially if it’s sudden and you’ve not had it before.
It’s hard but try not to let the fear manifest itself physically to a point where you become tense. This will affect how you move and will stop your muscles relaxing in order to get back to normal.
If you do feel that the tension is getting in the way, take on board my last point.
At the very least, you’ll have some reassurance and an idea of what you need to do to recover. This should help you feel more comfortable and ease some of the fear you’re feeling.
6. Treating the symptoms, not the cause
Otherwise known as ‘dealing with the fruits not the roots’.
Yes, you need to alleviate your pain, but why do have the pain in the first place?
Sometimes back pain isn’t caused by your back at all, it can be problems in your knees, hips or even your feet manifesting itself as back pain.
A back pain specialist can take a look at your body as a whole, see how you’re moving and check your posture and alignment.
This can help them see where the problem is coming from and then work with you to work on the root.
By doing this, you’ll stand a better chance of getting rid of the pain long-term and not just masking a problem by just focussing on the pain.