If you have a painful back, then welcome to the club. This is something of a modern epidemic and these days it seems even ‘normal’ to have some kind of ache in your lower back. The problem is a combination of heavy lifting with long periods of inactivity, during which we are invariably leaning forward in office chairs and stretching our erector spinae muscles that are responsible for keeping our backs upright.
Spend all day resting and unintentionally stretching those muscles, and then when you bend over to pick up a heavy box off of the floor, you’re more than likely to cause a tear or to get a slipped disk.
The problem then, is that people go about treating their lower back ache in entirely the wrong way. Thus it quickly goes from being an acute, minor injury, to becoming a chronic complaint.
Here we will look at eight things people do when they have a bad lower back that do nothing to help and rather just exacerbate the issue…
1) Not Resting
Mistake number one is to pretend that lower back pain doesn’t exist and to carry on as usual without taking any kind of rest. This might mean continuing to engage in tiring, physical labour, or it might mean continuing to do long, intensive workouts. Either way, this is only going to further stress and damage the area and might even lead to a more serious problem. If you hurt your back then don’t think you should go on just because you can go on – recognise the need to rest in order to recuperate.
Resting means taking time off of work in many cases. It can also mean taking time out of your sports or workouts. It certainly means doing the sensible thing and telling your friends that sorry, you can’t help them move this weekend.
2) Over Resting
On the other hand, becoming completely motionless is also not a good idea. And lying in a soft bed or sitting at an awkward angle can sometimes be the worst things you can do. Remember that inactivity was one of the things that probably led to the injury in the first place. So spending all day on the couch to try and ‘recovery’ is a non-starter. While you need to stop doing things that place a lot of strain on your spine, that doesn’t mean stopping moving altogether. Walks, stretching and strengthening exercises are all important. See a physio for guidance.
3) Trying to ‘Crack It’ Back Into Place
Sometimes a bad lower back can feel as though you just need to bend over backwards or get a friend to punch you and that it will then ‘snap’ back into place. Whether or not that is the case, constantly twisting your body or actually getting your friend to punch you is much more likely to do damage rather than fixing you. Unless you happen to be a professional physiotherapist yourself… don’t try and manipulate your own joints.
What you should do though, is to go and visit a physiotherapist for real, or a chiropractor, who is actually trained in this. And stop putting it off.
4) Looking for a Clear Cause
A common way to respond to lower back pain is to spend hours browsing the web looking up symptoms and trying to find out what caused the problem. It must be a slipped disk… oh no wait, it’s a torn muscle… no, it’s osteoporosis!
The problem is, that in many cases you don’t stand a chance of finding out what is causing your back pain. In the majority of cases back pain is ‘nospecific’. That means that the exact cause is unknown and may in fact be the result of many factors. Don’t worry about how you got your backache, worry about solving it!
5) Looking for a Miracle Cure
The other reason you may be trawling the net could be to try and find a cure of some sort. Perhaps you hope it’s some stretch you’ve not seen before. Or maybe it’s using a special support while you sleep. Maybe it’s yoga…
Unfortunately in most cases the fixes aren’t quite so clear. Instead, you’d be much better off seeing a professional and following steps that you know can work. Usually this involves resting, stretching and fixing the little things in your routine to try and reduce the strain you place on your back on a daily basis.
6) Ignoring the Little Things
Those aforementioned ‘little things’ often play a very big role in our general health and forgetting to pay attention to them is a common and serious mistake.
Sure, sleeping differently probably won’t cure the problem, but it might be able to help. Likewise the wrong posture at work could well have contributed to the problem in the first place. The same goes for your incorrect lifting technique. Brush up on these things and address your routine and you’ll stand a much better chance of recovery.
And in fact, it’s also very important to think about your health generally as well. Things like smoking may not seem to directly affect your back, but believe it or not they can indirectly increase or reduce your chances of making a recovery.
7) Making it a Part of Your Identity
One of the worst things you can do when you have any kind of chronic pain, is to make it a part of your identity. In other words, if you think of yourself as ‘someone who has back pain’, then you are far less likely to ever get rid of it.
It can be tempting to think of yourself through the lens of your various ailments, and especially when they seem to be persistent. But nevertheless, your body is a miraculous thing, and if you help it, it can recover from all kinds of problems. I had a bad knee for over two years and at one point couldn’t even walk down the stairs normally. Now I’m 99% better and rarely ever think of it. I certainly don’t think of myself as ‘someone with a bad knee’ which is likely why I was able to recover at all.
8) Putting Off Seeing a Doctor
I alluded to this earlier, but just to reiterate: you must stop putting off medical attention. And in fact, if physio isn’t available and the soonest you can see someone is in four months’ time, then you should pay to see someone privately.
We put off getting treatment for aches and pains because we sometimes don’t want to know what’s really happening. Sometimes it’s because we’re ‘busy’. Other times it’s because we think it will just go away with time and we don’t want to ‘make a fuss’.
Understand the importance of your health and treat it as the absolute priority that it is. Your back isn’t going to heal itself, so go and see a doctor!
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