Tag Archive for: Back Pain Treatment

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Three Reasons Back Pain Sufferers Avoid Exercise (and what you can do)

80% of the population suffers from what we call “non-specific low back pain”. Low back pain is typically chronic, comes out of nowhere, you have good days and bad days, and it’s not usually due to any recent or major accident or fall. If you’ve got back pain and you’re reading this – odds are pretty good that you suffer from non-specific low back pain. Research shows that exercise is the best treatment for non-specific low back pain.

But what do you do when your back pain keeps you from the thing that’s supposed to help you?

Here are three of the most common reasons I see that keep people low back pain from exercising – and some tips for what you can do:

1. Fear

Let’s face it – back pain is scary.

This is the number one reason back pain sufferers don’t exercise. Is the pain you’re feeling good or bad? Should you be feeling any pain at all? Pain is confusing. When you experience pain during exercise, it can be difficult to know if it’s normal or a warning sign. For many, the safest thing to do (as they see it) is avoid any exercise or movement altogether until the pain subsides.

The problem is – when you try to resume movement again – the pain comes right back – and then you’re caught in a vicious cycle.

What you need to figure out is which movements are “good” and which movements are “bad” – and the good news is your body is going to tell you. If you hurt a little at first – but feel better the more you do something – and aren’t worse after – you can consider that movement generally safe and be encouraged to keep trying it.

But if you hurt during – and feel worse after – then that’s a sign to stop and back off. Pain is not something to fear – it’s just information. What’s important is how your back pain behaves over a period of time with a certain activity.

Fear of pain comes from not knowing what it is or what to do – but when you figure out how to “speak pain” – the fear goes away and you can have control over your body again.

2. Bulging Discs

Most people who suffer from long-standing low back pain eventually find themselves getting an MRI. And 60-70% of the time, it will show one or more bulging discs.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that most people over the age of 40 walk around with bulging discs – and that 65% of them feel no pain at all. In other words, if you’ve got a bulging disc, you can’t be certain it’s the cause of your back pain. Research proves this. And being told you’ve got a bulging disc is not a reason alone to avoid exercise.

Movement is actually one of the best things you can do for a bulging disc.

It may require some customization of your current exercise routine, but a movement specialist can help you with this. Don’t just stop or avoid exercise altogether just because you’ve been told you have a bulging disc. Go back to the rules of pain I mentioned above and let that be your guide instead.

3. You Were Told to Rest

Well-meaning doctors and family members who aren’t up to date on the latest back pain research will advise you to rest every time you experience back pain.

This might be reasonable advice when you’re dealing with an acute (sudden) episode of back pain – but it’s terrible advice for chronic, non-specific low back pain sufferers.

Rest is one of the worst things someone with chronic back pain can do. Since most people don’t have a thorough understanding of this concept, they find themselves in a yo-yo effect.

They rest to “heal” their back pain. When it’s gone they return to exercise – only to hurt their back again. I’ve seen so many people fall victim to this perpetuating cycle and it’s a big reason why so many back pain sufferers just give up on exercise entirely.

If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised – start with 10 min of daily walking.

Walking is generally known to be one of the best things you can do for back pain. If for some reason walking increases your back pain – then that’s a good reason to see a back pain specialist (ideally one who understands how to heal your back with movement versus pills and procedures).

If you’re suffering from chronic, non-specific low back pain – and you’ve stopped exercising – know that you’re not alone.

This is such a confusing topic and there are so many mixed messages out there about what the “right” and “wrong” thing to do is. Don’t try to go at it alone. Exercise is good for your back, but you may just need a little help and guidance to get there.

Need help with Back Pain now? Are you Local to Portsmouth, NH? CLICK HERE to speak with one of my specialists. We will see what’s been going on with you – and get you on a treatment plan right away.

We will be talking all about Back Pain in our upcoming Masterclass! Its free – via zoom – on January 24th. Reserve your seat here!   Learn how to manage your back pain on your own – and get back to doing the activities that you love – pain free!

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Three Ways You’re Getting Back Pain Treatment Wrong

If you’re over the age of 40 and reading this, odds are pretty good that you’ve experienced back pain at least once in your life. In fact, four out of five people are impacted by back pain, and for many, it’s a constant back-and-forth year after year. Keep reading to learn three ways you could be getting back pain treatment wrong.

The first thing you need to understand is that back pain is normal. It’s hard to combat the everyday stressors our modern-day lifestyles impose on our spine. We simply weren’t meant to sit for hours each day or be crouched over electronic devices. Rather than have unrealistic expectations about pain-free lifestyles, we should instead be focusing on ways to naturally manage our own back pain.

Now keep in mind, I make a living off helping people recover from debilitating back pain. But that doesn’t mean I want you to suffer. Here are three ways we’re getting back pain treatment wrong.

1. Quick fixes and passive modalities.

Reliance on quick fixes or passive modalities is how most people attempt to treat their back pain. It’s also the number one reason why back pain returns. A passive modality is something that is done to you vs something you actively do on your own. It’s where you walk in somewhere, lie on a table, and receive some kind of treatment. This could be chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, or even injections and surgery. You have no active role in the process – it’s completely passive.

Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these treatments. They are great for easing symptoms related to back pain – especially tight, spasmatic muscles. (I have back pain myself and get a massage once per month.) But they shouldn’t be used in isolation. They need to be part of a more comprehensive, movement-based approach to addressing back pain at its source. Plus – you’ll find the relief you get from passive modalities is almost always temporary. And when your pain keeps coming back – it’s a sure sign you’re missing something. Don’t get back pain treatment wrong by relying on passive modalities.

2. Letting MRI’s make the decision.

Traditionally, the medical community diagnoses your back pain with images. If you’ve had back pain for a while, and especially if you’ve already tried some physical therapy, doctors will prescribe an MRI to “see what’s going on” inside your spine. The problem is that what shows up in your MRI doesn’t always correlate with what’s causing your back pain. In fact, 60% of the time, what you see on your MRI has nothing to do with the root source of your problem.

For example, your MRI might show a bulging disc in your spine. Well, did you know that bulging discs are normal and occur naturally as you age? You could have two people with the same bulging disc on their MRI and one will have zero back pain.

Why? Because the root cause of back pain is more complicated than your anatomy. Evidence from research tells us that 70-80% of all back pain is primarily caused by restrictions in your mobility – which is influenced by your habits and the way you move – not by what’s going on structurally in your spine.

So if your doctor lets your MRI make the decision, and recommends surgery to cut out a bulging disc that isn’t even the source of your real back problem, you’ve not only wasted a surgery, but wasted even more time not addressing the real cause of your pain. Letting MRI’s dictate your treatment plan is one of the most overlooked ways we’re getting back pain treatment wrong.

3. The wrong exercises.

One of the biggest problems I see when it comes to treating back pain is non-specific, non-prescriptive, generalized exercises that are designed to make you strong and perhaps even target your core – but it’s before the real problem gets addressed.

Almost 90% of the time, back pain is due to immobility in your spinal joints (vertebrae) that causes irritation of surrounding structures in your spine – such as discs, nerves and ligaments. What we know to be true is that these mobility restrictions can be freed up with very specific movements, in very specific directions, using a very specific frequency during the day.

Once the restriction in your spine is free and you’re moving normally, you can do any exercise of your choosing. It’s at this point that strengthening your core, for example, is beneficial. Because a strong core helps prevent future back pain episodes (but it doesn’t cure a current back pain episode).

To figure out which specific move you need to address your back pain will require help from an expert. But the good news is once you know what movement gets rid of your back pain, you can use it time and again to manage it on your own. But generalized exercises, when done too soon, is another big way we’re getting back pain treatment wrong.

If you’ve been suffering from back pain longer than you should, I hope this information helps you figure out where you might have been steered wrong.

It’s worth getting help from a back pain specialist who emphasizes corrective, prescriptive movement as a means to recovery – vs quick fixes, MRI’s, and generalized exercises.

Want help from one of our specialists? Request a Free Discovery Call HERE to see if you’re a good fit for what we do.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or visit her website at cjphysicaltherapy.com.