Why does back pain come back? And how to prevent it

Man with poor posture at table at risk of back painBack pain recurs when the stresses and strains on your back overcome your body’s ability to deal with them. Daily activities like bending, lifting and long periods of sitting with poor posture can put a strain on the spine which it can normally cope with very well. Unfortunately, if there is an underlying issue which reduces your ability to manage these forces then the back muscles, joints or discs can get irritated and start to hurt.

Back pain often comes and goes. If you have a mild episode of back pain it will often get better by itself over a few days or week or two. Even though the pain may be gone, however, the underlying dysfunction which caused the problem in the first place may still be lurking. When this happens a simple movement may strain something in the back and the pain flares up again.

As each episode of back pain strikes the more likely it is that you will have another back attack. These episodes often get worse the longer the problem is unresolved and get more and more frequent and last for longer each time. So what can you do about it?

There are three things that help reduce recurrent back pain:

  1. Take regular exercise

Staying active is the single most important thing to prevent back pain from returning. Whilst back muscle or core exercises are very useful in the treatment of low back pain, no one particular exercise regime has been shown to be better than any other when it comes to prevention. This means that any sort of regular moderate exercise can help prevent back pain. It’s probably more important to do something that you enjoy and is easy to get to so that you keep doing it.

  1. Watch your posture and movement

Well known simple things make a big difference like bending your knees when you bend and lift; not sitting at your desk or on a sofa for too long and making sure your normal back curve is maintained by putting a cushion in the small of your back. Sometimes you will need to avoid deep soft sofas too. Being aware of these things is often enough to improve your posture sufficiently to take the strain off your back.

  1. Get stiff spinal joints sorted out

Even though the low back pain may have gone, silent spinal joint dysfunction can persist. Improving the mobility of these joints has been shown to prevent future bouts of pain. That’s why we recommend a periodic check-up by one of our chiropractors every few months if you are prone to recurring back pain. It can make a big difference and can save time and money in the long run.

 

Stress affects back pain

Other things can also increase the likelihood of another bout of back pain. Stress, anxiety and depression have been associated with persistent or recurrent low back pain. A post on this is coming soon.

Free physio exercise routine (worth £42) with free spinal check-up

Low back stretchMost people think that having a healthy back is matter of luck, a matter of avoiding accidental injury and bending a lifting properly. Whilst these things certainly help there are three things that research has shown to be the most effective way of treating and preventing back pain.

Firstly, and most importantly, keeping fit and active has the biggest impact on preventing back problems. Initially, a few days rest may help a bad back but getting active early on is key to a full recovery. Once your back is better it is important to maintain levels of activity and there are certain simple exercises that you can do at home. These exercises can also prevent back pain coming on in the first place.

The second thing that will help keep your back in tip top condition is getting treatment sooner rather than later. If back problems are not clearing up or keep coming and going it may be a sign that that the condition is slowly worsening and this can lead to chronic, ongoing pain.

The third solution to keep your back healthy is regular preventative check-ups. Back problems come on because the spinal joints gradually stiffen over time, causing reduced movement, inflammation and pain. We can check for the early signs of spinal stiffness and our treatment can unlock the stiff joints and prevent the pain from coming on in the first place.

For January, we are offering a free spinal check-up with a chiropractor combined with free 30-minute physio assessment and personalised exercise routine (worth £42) for everyone seeing a Sundial chiropractor. To book in online – www.sundialclinics.co.uk or call Sundial Queens Road, 01273 774114

 

Terms and conditions: One free spinal check up and one free physiotherapy exercise session is available on request. To be eligible to claim you must receive a session with a Sundial chiropractor between 2nd – 3rd February 2018. Only one free chiropractic check-up and one free physiotherapy session is allowed per person and it must be taken by 31st March 2018. The free sessions are not transferable and cannot be exchanged for the cash equivalent. 

Preventing low back pain

low back treatment, chiropractor BrightonRecent research shows that low back pain can be prevented with regular chiropractic care. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden reported that early results from their randomised control trial showed significant improvements in the recurrence of back pain. These results, as yet unpublished, were reported at the latest European Chiropractic Union Conference in Cyprus, May 2017.

In the trial, people with recurrent low back pain were divided into two groups. Both groups were treated with an initial course of usual chiropractic care which consisted of spinal manipulation, mobilisation, exercises and advice. One group was then told to come back every few months and the other group was told to come back only if and when the pain recurred.

The group that were told to come back every few months experienced nearly 20 fewer pain days over the year.  On average they had two more treatment visits than the other group.

This result confirms for the first time that regular chiropractic care can have a significant influence on the course of low back pain. People with recurrent episodes of back pain should consider regular preventative check ups to reduce the impact of their back pain.

Here at Sundial we recommend periodic check ups every few months based on your history and the severity of the problem. We monitor progress through regular reassessments and online questionnaires to help us improve our care.

Back pain – the hidden dangers in your car

If you get back pain in your car you’ll know how unpleasant it can make a long journey. Back pain can make driving a misery. Brighton chiropractor, Matthew Bennett, gives a few simple tips that can help relieve back pain in your car.

Top tips to prevent back pain in your car

Buy a bigger car. It is an unfortunate truth that many small cars are only designed with short journeys in mind. Poor support from inadequate seats that are made for smaller than average people make them suitable for driving around town at low speeds and not much else. Most drivers in Brighton and Hove use their cars for journeys of less than 20 minutes. A longer journey in many small hatchbacks, even if you don’t have a bad back, will be enough to have you reaching for the pain-killers.

There are a few other problems with smaller cars too. Never mind suspension that has springs better suited to a child’s toy than a modern vehicle, the ergonomics in the cabin can be terrible. The intrusion of the front right wheel arch into the footwell means that the pedals on even some medium sized cars are pushed towards the middle and you have sit in a twisted position. This of course is not ideal if you have back ache.

Not content with contorting our lower body un-naturally car manufacturers have devised the off-set steering wheel to complete the torment. Because space is tight in a small car the steering wheel can be set at angle too. These changes are subtle but when you’re stuck in that odd position for more than a few minutes, back muscles and joints start to complain.

Poor seats in cheaper cars don’t have enough support either in the low back (lumbar) area or in the often over-looked side bolsters. If such cars do have a lumbar support it can be in the wrong position for you.  Variable pump-up back supports in the seat can be helpful but if you pump them up enough to be useful they can push you so far forwards that the side bolsters, if they exist, become useless.

Getting in and out of smaller, low riding cars can be troublesome too. If your back has already stiffened up after a long drive, getting out of the car, levering yourself upright under a low roof line can strain your back. How much easier to lower yourself from a high riding car. Suv and cross-over type vehicles do really well here. They are not only higher off the ground but can sometimes have a more compliant ride, especially if you avoid larger wheel sizes. Putting things in the boot is easier too as you don’t have to bend over so far especially if the boot has no lip. If you have babies or toddlers getting them in and out of a car seat is a hazard in small, low cars. The Suv is great here.

Car seat adjustment to prevent back pain

The base of the seat should be long enough to support the backs of your thighs but not touch your knees. It should be slightly higher at the front than the back too.

The seat back should ideally be at about a 110-120 degree angle with the lumbar support pumped up to a comfortable position. The more options you can adjust the better. Height and tilt changes mean that you are most likely to find a comfortable driving position.

Steering wheel adjustments will help too. Adjusting for rake and in and out mean that you can get perfectly comfortable. The trouble starts when someone else uses the car and changes your carefully honed set up. Back to square one – unless you have electric memory seats of course. This option is only available at the executive end of the market but might be worth looking out for if you share a car.

If you have adjusted your seat as best you can but are  still getting back pain then give us call so we can book you in for free check-up. We will see if you have an underlying issue with your back joints or muscles which can easily be sorted out.

Next, What is the best car to beat back pain?

Dealing with recurrent back pain

If you are getting recurrent back trouble what can you do to help yourself and sort the problem out? Back pain usually goes away in a week or two at most but for four out of five people, however, it keeps on coming back.  In a recent study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, 70-80% of back sufferers were still having pain a year later in spite of receiving treatment.

Brighton Chiropractors Give Three Tips to Prevent Recurrent Back Pain

1 Stay Active

This is counter-intuitive as the temptation is to take it easy. Most people are afraid of moving about in case they make the problem worse and prolong the agony. This, however, is exactly the wrong thing to do.  It is OK to rest for a day two or three days but after that doing gentle exercise is actually helpful even if is sore doing it or for a while afterwards. Walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates or yoga can all be a helpful start. Gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise as your muscles and joints get used the restored function is a helpful way to prevent recurrences. Our Exercise Video Programme is here.

2 Avoid aggravating activities

If your back goes bending over to tie your shoe laces or getting out of the car, the chances are that this activity is not the cause of the pain but rather the trigger factor. It is unlikely that something you have done hundreds of times before would suddenly become a problem without a change in the underlying condition of your back. A gradual weakening of your back muscles due to lack of core muscle strength leads to stress on the spinal joints which gradually stiffen and can eventually sprain.

There are certain activities that can often aggravate your back. These include prolonged sitting, lifting badly with your knees straight or lifting and twisting. Certain specific tasks can cause stresses on back joints and muscles like hoovering or gardening and you probably recognise what these are for you. Sometimes doing the activity for a brief period is okay but doing it for a prolonged period brings the pain on. It is helpful to start the activity gently, gradually increasing the effort you put in to it and then finishing with a few back stretches.

It is also worth noting when the pain comes on. If the back ache is worse in bed it could be an old sagging mattress that is not supporting your spine. If your back is stiff after sitting in low sofa for an evening then perhaps this is the culprit. These are obvious potential causes of back strain but our lifestyle is jammed full of hidden causes of back pain. A car with offset pedals or steering wheel twists the spine on every journey for instance.  A computer monitor off to one side has the same effect. Even baby care has its own hazards. Bending over a changing mat or putting a baby in a car seat is a potential back strain in the making. If you do a lot of work at a desk there are tips to set up your desk and chair here.

3 Get regular check-ups from a back specialist

If getting a fistful of anti-inflammatory drugs from the GP doesn’t help resolve your back pain quickly then you might choose not to wait for referral to the local physio department. Currently the national average waiting time is twelve weeks by which time, if you are still getting pain, it is becoming chronic. If it does resolve the chances are that it will recur in a few months or a year or two.  There are other options for back care though.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government body that recommends the best treatments for all sorts of conditions says that manipulation from a chiropractor, osteopath or specialist physiotherapist should be part of effective care for back pain. A short course of treatment will often restore strength and flexibility to the back allowing you to get back to full activity. Once you have the initial problem under control and the pain has resolved there is some evidence that a periodic session of treatment can help prevent back pain from recurring.

Back pain can limit what exercise and activities you are able to do but with the right approach you can get rid of the problem and carry on as normal. These straightforward steps will help you get better.

If you want to find out if we can help you – call for a free check-up.

For more information look at our Treatment and Fees FAQ’s