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For those of you who have severe lower back pain, only you know how debilitating it is. Only you know how it affects every part of your life. You can’t sleep, you can’t get comfortable and even standing to walk to the toilet can be excruciating. But probably the most frustrating thing about severe lower back pain is that no one else can see it and or feel it. No one else can share your pain and really know how frightening it is. Everyone you speak to has their own piece of advice. You should walk. You should apply heat. You should see my guru therapist. Information can be overwhelming. Doctor Google it seems, has only made it more confusing. Many news websites and newspapers carry blogs on lower back pain. The problem is that almost all authors have not treated a single person with back pain and if they have, they are not at the coal face or in the trenches helping people like you daily to cope, to have hope and to see the possibility of a way out of the haze. Whilst articles may be evidenced-based, the information is so general that it can be dangerous. To lump everyone who has severe back pain into the same boat may be downright reckless. A disc herniation is not the same as a joint sprain or canal stenosis. To say to everyone who has severe lower back pain, you just need to get up and walk or that it will just get better on its own, can be both cruel and misleading.

To help you, here are 10 facts that you need to know to help you manage your back pain

Back pain that has come on for no reason, is constant, keeps you awake and doesn’t change, indicates that your back pain is inflammatory in nature and you need to see your doctor immediately

Whilst you may not remember a specific incident that brought on your back pain, there is almost always a cause. Not understanding this, can lead to you re-aggravating your back injury, the number one reason, why many people don’t get better.

If your pain is throbbing, constant and wakes you at night, apply cold packs in a damp tea-towel for 15 minutes a minimum 6 times each day (and up to hourly) for at least 3 to 5 days (be sure to check your skin every 5 minutes for adverse reactions). If your pain is more like a general soreness, is intermittent and you are able to sleep soundly, apply comfortable heat.

  1. See your doctor find out which medication can help you cope best. Research has now shown that there is little or no evidence that paracetamol and other over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen actually help. And be aware that prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medication has been shown to delay healing
  2. In contrast, there is evidence that hands-on therapy performed by physiotherapists and other manual health professionals do offer benefit. But again you need to understand that this benefit is likely to be short term if the underlying cause isn’t addressed
  3. We are told not to take back pain lying down and to stay moving, but what movement? Lying down might be the only position that reduces your pain. If so, get into the most comfortable position possible, apply cold packs for 15 minutes at a time hourly (helps to reduce inflammation and pain)Generally, there will be a direction of movement that provokes your pain and a direction of movement that eases it. Move gently and slowly in the direction that eases your pain and performs as many of these movements (perhaps 6-12 hourly) as you can as long as they are pain-free. At the first hint of an increase in pain or a reduction in form, stop. If you always stop before pain, the chances in making your problem worse are minimized if you are lying down, you need to get up and go for a short walk every one to two hours to reduce the pressure on your back. If walking is painful, a back brace and walking with elbow crutches often relieves the pain
  4. Back pain is more common in smokers. Smoking has been shown to reduce blood flow to all parts of your body, including your back, meaning that it is unable to stay healthy and resilient to the stresses that are applied to it every day. This leads to injury, inferior healing, deficient recovery, chronic inflammation, and constant pain not just in your back but your whole body
  5. Staying positive and improving your nutrition, sleep and stress levels will all help you to overcome your back pain. Understanding that your body’s natural default mechanism is to heal and then allowing it to do so by nurturing the most healing environment possible will lead to a quicker and better recovery.
  6. X-rays and scans (including CT and MRI scans) are often a waste of your money because of they:
    • frequently show up completely unrelated abnormalities that can be both scary and confusing
    • don’t influence or change your treatment: and
    • they expose you to radiation which can increase your cancer risk.

Having said this, it is important to get further investigations if you have been injured in a trauma involving a forceful knock or blow. Additionally, if your signs and symptoms are worsening (and not improving within a week), you are feeling unwell and losing weight or have pain, numbness, tingling, pins, and needles or loss of power in your bladder, bowel or legs. These are medical emergencies and it is critical to see your doctor or health professional as soon as you can.

  1. Your back pain will only get better if you address the cause of your problem. This means changing if only slightly, the way that you move that has caused the problem in the first place. Whilst hands-on treatment often provides only short term relief and rehabilitative exercise medium-term relief, fixing the cause of your pain will give you permanent relief. It is this package of hands-on therapy, rehabilitative exercise and posture and movement correction that the evidence has shown is the best way to achieve long-lasting relief and sustained physical improvement.

If you have back pain and would like help to get rid of it, call 1 300 bodywise (1 300 263994) to organize an initial gap-free assessment and treatment so that you can begin your road to recovery.