So here we are again groundhog day except it’s cold and dark outside this time. If you haven’t been lucky enough to have a home work station assessment your probably still working cramped into the attic or sat on a dining chair. Or being torn between homeschooling and that desk. Or perhaps you’ve taken up a new exercise regime increased it, taken up something new like running or just stopped due to low motivation. Yes, I’ve heard all of this in the clinic, all of which have risks to your musculoskeletal and mental health. When we start to get pain we usually ignore it unless it’s a good 7 out of 10. I tend to see people in the clinic if they’ve either had an acute injury or they’ve had that niggle that hasn’t gone away over the last 3 or so months and is perhaps becoming worse. It tends to be once those aches and pains start to get in the way of life, unable to do the exercise you enjoy, unable to play with the kids or struggle at work be it a sedentary or physical job.
Our first intuition is to stop being in pain so our body starts to adapt and avoid certain movements. What that means is you start to get abnormal movement patterns some muscles become weak, some tired and some tight. We’re usually not aware of this as it’s the body’s natural way of alleviating pain. Pain is the body’s alert system and is useful to tell us there is something wrong. However, something that is wrong is often resolved within a few weeks or months. Sometimes the pain mechanism decides it doesn’t want to switch off. Think long-term back pain after around 3 months back pain starts to be called chronic or persistent pain. This is a huge problem in the Western world and can be connected with being sedentary, having a poor diet and carrying that bit of extra weight. But not always I often see people who are very fit and certain sports or exercise appears to be making the pain worse. The big question is why do we get chronic back pain? But simply the experts really aren’t that sure. The problem with ongoing pain is that it’s complicated in both mental and physical health aspects.
Did you know that having diagnostics such as an MRI scan is not good at predicting symptoms? As we get older all of our spines to change, the height of discs reduces, for example, we can even have a disc bulge but know nothing about it. Whereas another person may present much better on a scan and have a world of pain. For sure, there are some cases where further diagnostics and medical interventions are required, but this is the minority of cases. So what do we know, by and large, long-term use of pain medication doesn’t generally work, surgery doesn’t always work and injections are hit and miss. So what does work? What do we know? So you will probably have to suspend your imagination a little.. but it is as simple as understanding pain and using self-management techniques.
Don’t get me wrong this is a rocky road and changing belief systems around a person’s pain is a challenge. This doesn’t mean this isn’t complex, it is. Pain can often be linked to traumatic events or mental health issues but as ever not always. We’re all individuals and an individual approach to that person’s pain is essential. We also need to get moving, all those learnt abnormal movements need addressing. Many people are scared to move as to them it equals pain and damage.. you will not be doing harm by moving, but you need to teach how to move, and often this starts with very simple things like moving your pelvis! This is hard to do if you’ve had back pain for a long time.. go on try it!
Always get assessed by a physiotherapist before embarking on addressing your back or persistent pain