One of the most common complaints that people coming into the clinic have is of ongoing back pain. This is usually an issue that has been nagging for a long time, flaring up from time to time, settling back down again but never really going away completely. Often these flare ups are happening more frequently which is the driver for seeking some help. The good news is that these problems can always be helped and symptoms can be settled long-term.
There are lots of people out there with this complaint, many of whom assume they just have a ‘bad back’ that they have to live with. Some who seek help from their GP will be prescribed rest and painkillers, but most of the time this will not solve the problem.
The key in resolving this type of back issue is assessing exactly what structures are at fault.
What Causes Back Pain?
A healthy spine will have mobile joints, wide and hydrated discs, and nice wide holes between the vertebrae where the nerves pass out of the spine. Chronic back pain happens due to a build up of stress on the spine that creates degenerative changes in the discs and joints of the vertebrae. The result is that the discs get narrower, the joints have more compression through them and the holes that the nerves travel through become narrowed. This can lead to nerves becoming squeezed and that causes muscle tightness and spasm which then create more compression through the spine. A viscous cycle is then started which is essentially the basis of the chronic back pain.
How We Treat Back Pain
Because there are usually several structures involved in long-term back pain - discs, joints, nerves, muscles - there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating it, which is why just doing some exercises alone isn’t usually enough. Each of these structures needs to be treated appropriately in order for the problem to fully resolve.
I use a hands-on approach to get the joints in the spine moving more freely and to take the pressure off the discs. This will also help to take the pressure off the nerves and I often use acupuncture or Gunn IMS to stimulate the nerve to get it functioning optimally. When the nerve has settled then the surrounding muscle spasm will reduce. Further relaxation of the muscle can be achieved with various massage or stretching techniques. The aim is to get all of the parts of the back functioning normally, at which time a program of stretching and strengthening will be much more effective and will allow you to keep your back pain at bay.
Ultimately there are many types of treatment that are used to effectively treat back pain. No two cases of back pain are the same which is why it is important to establish the main causes of your problem, and then treat these accordingly. In almost all cases, back problems can be restored to a level where you can manage with exercise and there is no need for long-term painkillers.
If you are suffering from back pain and you want to fix it, please get in touch. One of our Physios can call you to chat through your best options (book a call here) or you can book an appointment here.
Niall McGregor is hosting a free Chronic Back Pain workshop at The Physiotherapy Place on Tuesday 24th October at 7pm. Get in touch now to book a place.