Preventing Low Back Pain

The current measures at preventing low back pain are poor. The traditional ergonomic measures of adjusting chair height, desk height, manual handling courses, lifting programs; they’re very overwhelming and have proven to not be very effective. The more we are learning about back pain, the more we know it’s not just about the physical or the ergonomic factors. What you lift can absolutely influence back pain but also things like the type of job you’re in, your general health, your fitness levels, your sleep, your overall mood; all of these factors influence it as well.

Research points to one intervention being more effective than others and that is exercise. General health interventions like exercise are more important than a specific focus on the back. Like rubbing this part of your back or moving at this exact angle.

Which exercise should you choose?

Here is the good news: you can enjoy whatever you enjoy doing and whatever exercise you can do regularly. So maybe don’t choose swimming if there isn’t a swimming pool within 30 miles. Choose whatever you enjoy and just get the dosage right. Start small and build up gradually. Walking every day has been shown to be effective in the treatment of low back pain.

Should we be so afraid of Low Back Pain?

There are some issues with this concept in that it doesn’t make sense to promote the idea that this is a terrible condition that will ruin your long-term health. It’s also important not to think things like ‘my back is weak and vulnerable and I must stop this happening to me at all cost’. Here’s the truth: 90% of people are affected by low back pain at some point in their life. Unfortunately, it is an aspect of being alive. As Ciaran O’Sullivan (Back Pain Researcher, University of Limerick) said “It’s like getting the cold or getting tired or getting constipated. These things are not fun, they are disabling for short periods of time but ultimately normal things that happen to everybody at some point in their life.”

What can this mean for you?

When you get back pain for a day or two or maybe even a week or so try not to panic, try to relax, and do whatever movements you can before attempting to go for an MRI scan or see a specialist.

Preventative Measures in Low Back Pain

Messages involving prevention of low back pain are essentially trying to reduce the load on the body; prevent children from carrying schoolbags, avoid bending and lifting, be careful putting on your socks, don’t do too much But, putting your body under load is good for your body. If you want to make your bones, your muscles, your tendons stronger you should try to gradually increase the amount of load. (pic of 3 guys carrying the bull) Avoiding load in the short term might be clever to let symptoms settle so that you don’t experience much pain but in the long term it’s not an effective strategy.

Low Back Pain in Children and Teenagers

Children getting less active, eating more calories and less food, lots of daily sedentary lifestyle; they get a lift to school, sitting most of the day, sometimes no running outside in yard, sitting for their homework, some tv or time at the laptop and repeat…

Now getting the messages of avoiding schoolbags we are robbing them of another opportunity to be active. Not being able to walk to school, not be able to cycle to school and now messages that if you carry this school bag it could be dangerous.

In terms of lifting and carrying schoolbags, the context and environment is very important. Am I happy in school with my friends and my teacher or am I being bullied or struggling academically or socially?

In the same way, one adult might experience back pain lifting in a job where he is undervalued and his self-esteem is threatened as opposed to a co-worker who feels satisfied and is valued.

Let’s talk about the schoolbag…

Which is more likely to prevent back pain? Avoiding putting any weight on your back or gradually increasing the weight of the bag so that you can adapt and get used to the load?

So how should you view back pain in your child?

See what you can do to help them get going again and feeling better. Feeling safe and happy as opposed to thinking something awful must’ve gone wrong here. This might mean speaking to the right healthcare professional, most likely a therapist you can trust, as opposed to rushing for imaging and creating unnecessary panic in either yourself or your child.

The things that effect low back pain are the things that effect your general health.

-Very high or very low activity levels

-High stress levels

-Poor sleep

-Low mood

-Poor family and work situations, etc.

A good starting point is to make yourself healthier. People with ongoing pain need more help and guidance and each case is individual but it is important to make some adjustments to activity, lifestyle measures as a starting point.

Sudden unexpected loads on the body can absolutely cause injury. The solution to this is to prepare for that by practising loading. So, to help with your back pain, rather than never running or lifting or bending, maybe practise some running or lifting or bending. Otherwise, deconditioning can set in and this opens yourself up to a host of musculoskeletal aches and pains as well as other health concerns.

If you would like more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Tommy Brennan

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Our goal here is to get you out of pain and back to your physical best so that you can enjoy the things that are important to you.  

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