Lower Back Pain. A Pain in the Ass.
Updated: Jun 6
Where does it come from and what can we do about it?
One of the most common complaints I see most regularly in clinic is non specific lower back pain. As a society, it seems to plague us. It also seems like we've gotten to the point in some situations that we are expected to have it, and worse, are expected to live with it. But why are we so accepting of it?
Is it the fact that it's just so common and associated with any other ageing process like going grey?
According to the NHS, *back pain is the single biggest cause of disability in the UK, with lower back pain alone accounting for 11% of the total disability of the UK population.
So where does it come from?
It's true that any way we look at it our ageing bodies are likely to show some wear and tear. But how much of back pain cases are actually age related? I see younger and younger clients each year complaining of back pain, some involved in sports, some not. Non-specific lower back it seems, doesn't discriminate. We could put some cases down to our lifestyle and work. Many jobs involve long hours spent sitting either at a desk or in a vehicle, excessive manual labour or being on your feet for a double shift. Then there's our extracurricular activities, (yes you horse folk, I'm looking at you accusingly), many sports can increase the risk of back pain through injury, just ask the rugby lot. So if it's a combination of lifestyle & age, what the hell can we do about it?
Well, it seems to me we have a few options here:
Turning back the creeping hands of time to when we were younger
As far as the first option goes, it's a bit of a minefield. The truth of the situation is simple. We just don't fully understand how pain, and more specifically chronic pain, works. That's it.
The range of back pain complaints are vast, from mild to severe, with some being resolved via oral medications, some by various physical therapy and treatments like deep tissue massage, others by various targeted injections, the most extreme by surgical interventions. Then there's arthritis, disc problems, and heaven forbid, 'gluteal amnesia' (thanks for that little gem Dr McGill). I find it best not to look at the reasons why too closely, working towards a solution is time much better spent.
Mild to moderate pain can often be managed by over the counter NSAIDs, being an effective solution long term for some people. Others however, get little relief from such medications.
So for those of us who sit in the mild to moderate category (which is often case the non-specific category too), what can we do?
For a start, we can move more. The human body has evolved over millennia to move, and not just a stroll a day. According to the NHS, the guideline is *150mins of moderate intensity exercise a week or 75mins of vigorous activity a week. I've added the infographic below.
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