Treat Your Low Back Pain at Home (And Save Money!)
Did you know that back pain is on the rise? I’m not just talking about people who spend their days sitting at a computer. Yes, researchers think it has something to do with changes in lifestyle- including using computers all day!
But don’t worry because this post will share what might be causing your discomfort and how we can fix things together–saving both time AND money which are important when dealing with any injury or illness (especially chronic ones).
There are many therapeutic techniques out there to help you, but the truth is that most people can “fix” themselves with some simple advice and exercises.
Don’t let passive treatments get in your way! They may give you a little relief for now but in reality these types of treatments tend to be distracting and delaying your recovery while only addressing the symptom.
If, however, you have any of the following, seek a medical assessment from either your GP, NHS 24/111 or the Emergency Department as appropriate:
- History of malignancy
- Infective symptoms e.g. fever
- Sudden severe pain after a fall or injury
- Suddenly develop back stiffness along with difficulty walking.
- Pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
- History of inflammatory disease (especially if on immunosuppressants).
- Abnormal sensation or abnormal power in arms or legs.
Patients under the age of 18 or over the age of 55 with a new onset of symptoms should also consider seeing their GP.
If you don’t have any of these red flags then let us help you start fixing your low back pain! We’ll be answering the following questions:
And much more!
What Causes Low Back Pain?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what’s most likely causing your discomfort, it’s useful to have a solid grasp on why things hurt in the first place, so let’s go through what we know about how they occur:
Pain is normal, personal and always real.
Pain is a good thing. It means that your brain is helpful. Pain can be unpleasant, but it also helps you to know when something is dangerous and you should stop doing it.
Sometimes pain can be a warning of danger, like an alarm going off. Pain can also happen even when there is no damage.
Pain is not proportional to tissue damage.
People always find this surprising, but it is very important. Pain is not always the same size of the damage. Instead it measures how much a person feels threatened. The pain can be bigger than the damage because people might feel very afraid when they are hurting.
Phantom limb pain is when someone feels pain but there’s not any tissue damage. It can happen if they have no limb, or if their limb has been cut off. Soldiers on the front line may not feel pain because they are too busy fighting. This is because it depends on what else is happening around them. This is because context matters a lot when it comes to pain. This was first observed during World War II, when Harvard Medical School professor Henry Beecher and his colleagues discovered that soldiers who had been severely wounded in battle often felt little or no pain (ref).
We are bioplastic.
Your body is not like a car or machine that must be repaired. The comparison we prefer is: your body is like an orchestra, with each movement being a distinct instrument. If you’re feeling pain or discomfort, we need to reset the instrument so it can perform efficiently again in the orchestra.
Understand the difference between pain and discomfort.
It’s critical during rehabilitation to encourage the body to recover and function better, especially in cases of injury. This will be unpleasant at first, but you’ll get used to it.
An excellent illustration is a woman who has just had a hip replacement. Even though she prefers to lie in bed, the NHS Physiotherapist will quickly get her up
This isn’t because the Physio enjoys causing pain and discomfort; it’s because everyone, especially the patient, wants them back home as soon as possible.
When it comes to treating low back pain, the natural reaction is to rest the painful region since it feels sensitive and unpleasant, which is wise for the first 3 days. But any longer than this could delay recovery.
Instead, you must stress the tissue gradually in order for it to adapt and get stronger. We’ll talk about how to use this later on; for now, let’s take a look at the most prevalent.
What Is The Most Common Type of Lower Back Pain?
Most episodes of low pain are diagnosed as non-specific mechanical low back pain, sciatica and spinal stenosis.
Back pain that is non-specific refers to pain in the back that has no apparent cause. Low discomfort might be caused by a back injury, such as lifting something heavy or moving awkwardly suddenly. If there is no identifiable cause for non-specific mechanical low back pain, it will usually be diagnosed as non-specific mechanical low back pain.
Non-specific mechanical low back pain is by far the most prevalent sort of low back discomfort, and it will be the focus of this post
If you would like to discuss any other symptoms you may be having, then please book in for a Physiotherapy consultation.
Non-specific mechanical low back pain includes the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain around the low back region that may spread to the back of the buttocks and leg.
- Associated muscle stiffness.
- Pain aggravated by particular movements, postures and activities and relieved by others.
- Restricted range of back movement.
- Tenderness all around the lower back.
As we said before, non-specific low back pain implies that no particular tissue damage is causing your discomfort, but rather a number of interacting factors.
Because your back is hypersensitive, it may feel tight, rigid, and unpleasant. This might be due to a poor night’s sleep or a significant powerful collision from a road traffic accident.
There does not have to be an injury or any tissue damage to give this type of discomfort, and it is frequently impacted by typical lifestyle habits, such as:
- A lack of physical activity (ref)
- Poor sleep quantity and quality
- Stressful life/work events with little relaxation time (ref, ref)
- Depressing mood (ref)
- Limiting beliefs such as fear of moving your neck because it feels very uncomfortable (ref)
- A combination of all the above.
Let’s debunk a few common low back pain myths before we look at the best treatments for non-specific mechanical low back pain…
What Are The Most Common Low Back Pain Myths?
Many low back pain myths are still popular today, despite the fact that our knowledge of the problem has evolved. Many of these myths make you feel like someone needs to fix you. However, with greater understanding, you may often correct it yourself and saving yourself both time and money.
Myth #1: Your back hurts because you have “poor” posture.
Many people think that their back pain is caused by bad posture. But research has shown time and time again that, in the vast majority of cases, that’s not true.
People with “poor posture” usually do not experience discomfort, whereas individuals with “great posture” can experience persistent pain.
To drive the point home, here is one of our stroke survivors Robert performing his walking with a rounded upper back posture (known as kyphotic posture) that many people would consider to be suboptimal. However, Robert is pain-free and capable of performing everyday activities without trying to “correct” his posture.
Imagine you’re told to stand at attention for hours on end with perfect posture. You’d feel as uncomfortable (if not more so) than if you sat at your desk for hours on end. Imagine doing all of your daily activities while maintaining the “perfect posture” that many old-school therapists demand…
The posture you spend the most time in is the worst one. This is due to the fact that your back muscles become fatigued after a period of time, which can lead to lower back discomfort symptoms.
Myth #2: You should stop moving or exercise as much to prevent neck pain.
Many people who have low back problems believe that resting their “injured” back is necessary in order to let it heal. But this is not the case after the first few days.
The low back is a vital component of the body that must be strong and mobile for everyday activities such as picking things up, walking, or simply sitting down. So you need to keep it moving! (ref)
Myth #3: Your back hurts because your bones are not lined up. It needs to be moved so the bones are back in place again.
Some people like to crack their joints. However, these changes are generally short-term and do not aid in the relief of pain. Although it may appear that our back needs to be put back in or take a good whack, back posture and alignment are not particularly tightly linked with back discomfort.
According to the best research, relying only on manipulation may work for short-term pain (ref) but does nothing for improving your health, physical function and confidence in your body, all of which are essential for avoiding back pain from returning. It also runs the risk of ceating a dependency on this expensive short-term treatment for a condition that is often completely treatable.
Myth #4: Your back hurts because you’re getting old and it’s a sign of arthritis from wear and tear.
Some people believe that their pain is caused by age, but this isn’t true. Back discomfort affects many individuals, regardless of their age. It’s not useful to think that this sort of pain is brought on by aging since it doesn’t affect everyone who ages.
In fact, despite having severely degenerated joints, individuals with severe spinal degeneration may experience very little pain (ref).
The high frequency of ‘abnormal’ findings on MRI in pain-free individuals (disc degeneration [91%], disc bulges [56%]), disc protrusion [32%], annular tears [38%]), and the resulting difficulty of diagnosis with scans, is a major issue. Furthermore, these findings have a low correlation with pain and disability levels (ref, ref).
So most old people have thin discs. They are not sick, but their discs are thin. People call these “wrinkles on the inside.” This is a natural process. It does not hurt the person’s body to have thin discs and is not a predictor of neck pain.
This is why most people with back discomfort should not get a scan of their back. The scan will not tell you why your back hurts or anything else we don’t already know unless you have one of the red flags mentioned at the start; the ideal therapy for this is simply guidance, learning, and activity.
Myth #5: “I shouldn’t take pain medication because it will mask the pain”.
Some individuals are afraid to take painkillers because they believe that by doing so, they will “mask” the discomfort and ultimately cause more damage. Alternatively, you may be compelled to avoid taking medicine for personal reasons. It’s simple to understand why you might come to this conclusion.
If you take anti-inflammatory medicines only when necessary, they may assist you in getting back to activity and recovering quicker if prescribed by your doctor. This is due to the fact that acute neck pain is generally the consequence of heightened sensitivity in the neck rather than injury. It’s critical to remember that discomfort isn’t always connected to damage.
The vicious cycle of pain, reduced mobility, stiffness, and sensitivity can be broken by gradually increasing neck movement through discomfort with the aid of anti-inflammatories.
How Can I Fix My Low Back Pain?
A Sports Massage may be beneficial for some short-term pain alleviation.
A massage can benefit your physical, mental, and emotional health by lowering stress levels. It can also aid in the reduction of movement anxiety and a therapist may demonstrate you how to complete the exercises mentioned in this article.
The greatest treatment is being listened to and learning from a competent Physiotherapist who can assist you cope with your fear of movement while also educating you as to why your neck hurts and what will most effectively aid.
Following that is general movement treatment, as the more you move, the better you’ll get (ref).
Walking is a fantastic pain reliever when used appropriately. The amount you walk has an impact on your health benefits and pain tolerance (ref). This is particularly true for individuals who are not currently walking this much on average, since it indicates they may improve their activity level without risking aggravating your pain.
UK Chief Medical Officer Physical Activity recommendations urge at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week (moderate implies you can talk but not sing, or slightly breathless) to minimize the risk of disease and injury while also maximizing recovery from low back pain and soreness.
The common misconception is that high-impact activities such as running are bad for the back. In fact, they actually help your back and intervertebral discs get stronger and more resilient!
One study found that running is good for bad backs (ref). If you are a man or woman, it can make your back better by making the Intervertebral discs in your back more hydrated and thicker. They also found that high-impact tasks like running fast can do this too. But unlike high-impact things, low-intensity things like walking couldn’t do this to your back.
So once you can walk 7500 comfortably then you should consider high impact activities like running. If you’re looking for a good program to follow, then we’d recommend the NHS couch to 5k program.
Progressive resistance training follows next on our treatment pyramid, with a minimum of 30 minutes of progressive resistance exercise twice a week as part of your 150-minute moderate intensity activity. You can’t go wrong by developing your low back muscles.
If you don’t have time for any physical activity right now, don’t worry; there’s a dose response and you’ll get the greatest return on your time investment once you start.
Remember that everything contributes to the overall picture, so even a 5-minute stroll each day might provide significant health advantages and alleviation from low back discomfort.
Moving more will help you utilize bioplasticity. This phrase refers to the idea that little stress can induce your back’s tissue to adapt and improve. This may assist you in increasing your physical and emotional resilience to action and activity with practice.
A good example is to compare one’s physical ability to a cup, and one’s daily physical exercises and mental stress to the liquid within.
The larger your cup, the more strain your low back can handle before being damaged or overwhelmed. With a tiny cup, on the other hand, just a few drops spilling out can cause discomfort.
You can’t simply expect your pain and discomfort to go away on its own by resting it long-term. Instead, you must stress your tissue in a smart manner to improve function and symptoms as quickly as possible.
We can accomplish this by utilizing the Goldilocks principle of rehabilitation.
If you just put a back brace or support around your low back and lie down, the muscles will become tight and less powerful, possibly exacerbating your symptoms. However, if you move too much, you might aggravate your problems and slow down recovery.
Later in this article, we’ll show you how to get the stress just right.
How Safe Is It To Stress My Low Back?
You now understand that stress, in the proper quantity, is beneficial to your health and can assist you in recovering from low back pain and discomfort.
When you stress your lower back, you’re actually causing minor micro-traumas that signal to your brain and central nervous system that you need to improve your range of motion and physical capacity.
Exercises that feel unpleasant can be an indicator of how much stress you should put on your lower back. You should be able to breathe out as you approach discomfort, allowing you to relax and expand your range of movement while still tolerating the discomfort.
Your body will then super compensate if you follow good sleep and stress management health habits.
The size of your physical capacity “cup” grows and your painful symptoms and low back function improve with consistent exercise when done correctly with the appropriate amount of stress and recovery. This is bioplasticity in action.
However, too much stress, whether mental or physical, can lead to low back pain and muscular tightness (ref).
How Long Does Low Back Pain Last?
Unfortunately, not everyone with low back pain gets total relief from their symptoms and limitation (ref).
It’s tough to determine how much you’ll recover and how long it’ll take without a thorough Physiotherapy examination. We do know, however, in the vast majority of cases, that with the proper rehabilitation therapy, you may reduce your painful symptoms while also regaining normal levels of function.
Remember that achieving better low back pain and function is often a challenging road with ups and downs.
The time it takes for you to recover will be determined by the quality of the information and treatment you receive, as well as your adherence to the recommendations given.
It’s also a good idea to avoid forming exaggerated expectations by using milestones rather than timeframes. While we provide a free rehabilitation program (see below) it’s more useful to consider your rehabilitation as phases that you strive towards in your own time.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for neck problems. Massage, a hot bath, a heat pad or neck manipulation may help some people feel better right away, but they only last a short time before the symptoms return and can rapidly become expensive.
The following part summarizes a list of our favorite mobility and strength therapies for those suffering from neck discomfort, which, in our experience, have shown to be effective over time.
What Are The Best Stretches For Lower Back Pain?
The following exercises have been chosen based on the most up-to-date scientific research and our clinical experience of successfully treating low back pain patients.
The greatest low back rehabilitation exercises for you are generally the ones that cause you discomfort and difficulty.
When it comes to rehabilitation exercises, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach; therefore, we recommend that you start at stage 1 and practice on a daily basis.
To get the most out of this exercise, do it 2-3 times each day for at least 10 days. Begin with 5 repetitions and work your way up to 15 reps as you feel comfortable.
The Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) below is a tool utilized by Physiotherapists to assess the degree of your discomfort. The most essential feature of this scale is that it relates to your subjective perception of pain and may be a good measuring rod for how much you should stress your low back.
Stage 1: 1-2 weeks or once you can complete 15 repetitions with only mild discomfort (5/10 VAS) that settles relatively quickly.
Stage 2: 2-4 weeks or once you can complete 15 repetitions with only mild discomfort (5/10 VAS).
Stage 3: 4-6 weeks or once you can complete 15 repetitions with only mild discomfort (5/10 VAS).
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best ways to get more active?
ANYTHING! It all counts, the key is that you enjoy the process. You can find our free resources here and some of our clients find useful are the Couch to 5k.
What does it mean if I hear clicking and grating noises?
Crepitus is the clicking and grating sound you hear as you move your back. It’s possible that air bubbles bursting, tissues rubbing against each other in the joint, or bones clanging together as a result of movement across them might produce this noise, but it doesn’t matter if they’re loud since this isn’t a serious issue!
Should I be worried if I have numbness or tingling?
When the muscles, bones, or tissues surrounding a nerve are overly tense, it is possible to pinch it. You may experience numbness and tingling as a result of this pressure, which will fade away once the problem has been resolved. If symptoms are severe, discuss them with your doctor about medications such as gabapentin or pregabalin.
What are muscle spasms?
Consider muscle spasms to be a minor form of long-term cramp. Although this small cramp is unpleasant, it does not cause any actual tissue damage. The greatest treatments are described in this article!
Should I wear a back brace?
Wearing anything near the region only makes things worse by not stressing out muscle tissues sufficiently, so the brace should really just stay off unless you’ve been advised to wear it by your doctor.
Will an injection help?
In some circumstances, such as if you have persistent back pain, a long-acting local anesthetic or a steroid injection may assist. The needle is generally inserted into the tiny facet joints of your back during this therapy. These injections are frequently given in an x-ray department so that the specialist can place the needle carefully. In the vast majority of cases however, this is not necessary and the effects are often only short-term.
Will I need surgery?
Minor surgery is seldom required. If a nerve or spinal cord is being compressed and producing leg weakness or excruciating discomfort that does not go away, it might be worthwhile. Before discussing the advantages and disadvantages of surgery with you, the doctor will request a scan to examine the nerves and bones.
How will I know I’m improving?
Function and discomfort are the two most important outcomes for physiotherapy. You may keep track of your activity by following the exercises outlined above. Our Physio can give you access to our app where you can ensure you’re progressing as quickly as possible.