In this article, Move Clinic’s osteopath, Jonathan, identifies how low back pain can manifest, and some top tips to help you deal with it.
Low back pain, discomfort or stiffness is something that osteopaths will see in 50% of our patients on a daily basis. Low back pain is so often an on-going problem and can be the result of subtle stresses and/or previous trauma. Contributing factors can include accidents, sleep patterns, lifestyle stresses, anxiety, work, physical activities, genetics, diet, previous injury/illnesses – the list is endless! Our overall health can be affected by many intertwining factors, and this often results in muscle, joint and nerve pain, commonly low back pain.
Low back pain is actually a presenting symptom, rather than a disease in itself. There is a lot you can do yourself to relieve discomfort in your spine. By becoming more aware of what you’re doing with your body – and the stresses and strains you’re putting it under throughout the day (and night) – you can grow to understand more about the root cause and manage the problem yourself.
An active approach
It can be hard, but it is worthwhile to challenge our beliefs over what to do when low back pain strikes! There are two approaches we can take: a passive approach or an active approach.
This is where you require other people to address the problem for you. For example,
- The Doctor gives you pills
- The Surgeon operates on you
This is one that allows us to take ownership over the condition. For example,
- Performing corrective exercises
- Improving your diet
- Modifying habitual routines
- Changing a chair at work
- Going to bed on time
I believe it is important for us all to take an active approach. This is one that allows us to take ownership over the condition. This is giving you the empowerment to manage yourself. When you can switch a part of your brain on, that has been unconscious for a long time, it will help to turn around negative emotions that contribute to your pain. You will start to optimise your health. Osteopaths can help you to understand and put things in perspective.
We all have our own contributing factors that affect our health. If we can start to modify our behaviour by challenging how we are living our lives, it will engage our brains in a new way. When we channel our thoughts in this way, it can start to a have a remarkable effect on our tissues!
Here are some tips and strategies to get you going:
• Restore positive emotions by confronting tasks you are afraid of eg. Putting out bins, reaching forward to put on shoes, loading dishwasher, and discuss with an osteopath how you can modify these activities.
• Become aware of habitual patterns of movement. Start associating a postural habit with 5 activities throughout the day eg. activating core muscles as if you’re wearing a corset around your midriff when making a cup of tea, brushing teeth, checking email etc.
• If you sit down all day it could help to lie on your front for 10 mins in the evening. This is the opposite to sitting and much needed in many of us.
• Change position frequently. Do not sit in the same type of chair all day. Use a Swiss ball to sit on for 10 mins a day. Mix it up. Move as much as possible.
VARIANCE IS THE KEY
• Avoid crossing legs or standing on one leg too much.
• Keeping calm and restoring improved breathing patterns. Lie on back with head on a cushion. Spread arms out to side and breathe in 3 and out for 7. Allow yourself 5 minutes to do this, and you will become more aware of how you are breathing.
• Go to bed at the same time on most days. Having poor diurnal patterns (biological rhythms) can be linked to chronic pain.
• Think about whether you are getting the pain at a particular time of year, and if it is associated with a certain lifestyle stress.
• Address any food intolerance you may have e.g. dairy, wheat. It you are bloated, have constipation or diarrhoea, it can interfere with your postural reflexes. This affects how our muscles fire which can lead to new tissue damage.
• Good management of other illnesses/ pathologies can have a positive effect on your low back pain.
• Do exercise that you enjoy, so it becomes part of your lifestyle.
• WRITE DOWN A PLAN!
An osteopath can help you to realise what factors are contributing to your symptoms and suggest ways in which to manage it. Try and break the vicious circle of pain, and move beyond it. This type of management can be applied to all areas of the body that experience pain.