I recently read a tabloid article which talked about a celebrity suffering with a back injury. Articles like this, found in the media, often use language that can cause fear around pain and injury. This can impact the amount of fear felt by you if you are experiencing an episode of back pain. So, if even celebrities are misinformed, what about you? Have you been given accurate information about your back pain?
I’ve lost count of the number of patients I’ve treated with back pain who have come in to see me in tears. So many people have the fear that their back pain will cause them to end up in a wheelchair because they’ve been told their discs have slipped, or their spine is crumbling.
How do you know if you’ve been given correct information about your back pain?
Pain can be complex and is not easy to explain or understand. However, I am always more than happy to take the time to talk through with you what is likely to be going on to cause your back pain.
A lot of the time, the pain we feel is disproportionate to the damage that has occurred. Our bodies go into ‘protective mode’ to warn us they think something is going on. And the way our bodies protect us is by causing us to feel pain. And often this pain is greater than it needs to be.
Have you heard the smoke alarm analogy?
Think about a smoke alarm… has your smoke alarm ever gone off when you’ve burnt a slice of toast? There’s no fire, and nothing dangerous has happened, yet the smoke alarm has still been triggered. Our bodies can work in a similar way, with pain being our ‘smoke alarm’.
What could be going on?
There are many factors influencing back pain. Structural changes can happen. Nerve function can be altered, nerves can be irritated, and in rarer more severe cases, they can be compressed. We can get inflammation occurring in our joints, ligaments, and muscles in our backs.
Disc injuries can also occur, but they do not slip. We used to use the term ‘slipped disc’ as a layman’s term for a disc injury. However, patients’ perception from this description was causing a lot of increased fear around back pain. Discs can become irritated, or sometimes they can herniate to varying degrees. We also know from MRI studies that over 50% of people over 50 are likely to show some kind of disc injury on MRI scan, even though they have no back pain. You might find my blog on MRI scans helpful if you’d like to read more about this.
Biopsychosocial factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression can all also play a big part in the severity of the pain we feel, and how long it lasts.
With the right information about your back pain, you’ll be able to take the best action to reduce your symptoms!
Next time someone tells you you’ve slipped a disc, or your nerves have gone from your legs, please ask them to explain what exactly they mean. It’s likely that the structural change contributing to your pain isn’t as bad as what you might be picturing in your head!
We know that exercising, and keeping ourselves strong is one of the best things we can do to help our backs. I’d love to help you learn more about this at my upcoming core strength masterclass! Click here to find out more and book your space!
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to email me.