If you’ve ever complained of an aching back, chances are you’ve been told by well-meaning family or friends to take a couple of paracetamol and go and get some rest.
While that advice can be appropriate in some circumstances, it can cause more harm than good. In fact, often the thing an aching back needs most is the exact opposite of bed rest.
Back pain is incredibly common in Australia, with about 16 percent of us reporting some back problems at any one time.
Back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts less than six weeks is called acute pain and can be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain that lasts more than three months is called chronic, and is less common than acute pain. Chronic back pain is often age-related, but can also come from prior injury, arthritis, spinal stenosis or disc problems. Pinpointing its exact cause can be difficult.
Why shouldn’t I just lie down?
Believe it or not – exercise if one of the most important treatments for back pain.
Back pain is often caused by muscle or ligament strain and the best thing you can do to recover is to gently keep moving those muscles or ligaments, as long as you’re doing so correctly.
While your back may feel a little better in the short term with a bit of bed rest, too much down time can trigger problems.
As you rest, your muscles start to lose their tone and conditioning and you may find your back becomes weaker as a result. Other side effects of overdoing the bed rest including constipation, and a risk of developing blood clots.
To get the most from bed rest, limit the time you spend lying down to a few hours, and for no longer than a day or two.
How do I treat back pain?
As soon as possible, you should start to move again. Consult with a physiotherapist or spinal specialist and learn some stretching and strength exercises to use. Look at doing regular low-impact exercises like walking, swimming or riding a stationery bike to help rebuild your muscles.
You should avoid higher impact exercises like jogging, contact sports, racquet sports, dancing and weight lifting.
How can I prevent back pain?
Once you’re recovered from an episode of back pain, it’s important to take steps to avoid it coming back again. Again, seeing a physiotherapist or spinal specialist can help you identify potential causes of your back pain.
Your physiotherapist can also help you develop an exercise plan and teach you techniques to help you maintain good posture and breathing.
Here’s a few ways to prevent back pain reoccurring:
- Focus on sitting and standing using correct posture
- Learn breathing exercises
- Do regular back-strengthening and stretching exercises
- Avoid heavy lifting – and if you have to do it, use the proper technique
- Stay active and do a range of different activities
- Wear proper shoes
” Initial phase of back pain may require rest but it should not be prolonged. Moving and exercising within what you can tolerate is the first key step to recovery. Our professional spinal consultants are equipped with the knowledge to help you recover through back pain, chronic or acute.” Mr Chun Man (Kelvin) Choi, Physiotherapist and Accredited Exercise Physiologist of The Brisbane Spine Clinic.
When do I need professional help?
If your pain feels extreme, or has been going on for more than two weeks, it’s important to see a health professional. You might want to start with a GP, who can assess the back pain and its cause. Your GP may then recommend you see a physiotherapist to help manage your pain and assist in treating the cause.
If you’re looking for an Eight Mile Plains or North Lakes physiotherapist who specialises in spinal treatment and back pain, call us to discover The Brisbane Spine Clinic difference. You can book an appointment with Mr Chun Man (Kelvin) Choi to learn more today.