Let’s start by stating a simple but highly relevant fact: the severity of back pain, seldom, if ever, reflects the seriousness. Even the slightest problem with your back can very painful and debilitating. The most important thing is to “Keep Calm and Call Your Osteopath”.
To help understand back pain it is useful to split it into two categories; back dominant pain and leg dominant pain.
If you have back dominant pain, you may also have pain in your buttocks, hips and thighs, but it is the back pain that really bothers you. You will probably find that certain positions, such as arching backwards or bending forwards, either relieve or aggravate your symptoms. You may not think so at the time, but back dominant pain is normally preferable to leg dominant pain as there is unlikely to be any nerve damage.
If you have leg dominant pain, you may still have back pain, but it’s the leg pain that bothers you the most. Leg dominant pain often results from a problem with one of the cartilage discs that sit between each vertebra in your back. Damage to a disc can cause irritation of a spinal nerve and you end up with pain that travels like an electric shock down the back of your leg and often into your foot, often referred to as sciatica.
The vast majority of low back pain, however painful at the time, will resolve with time, treatment and exercise. There is very seldom a need for x-rays or MRI scans and the prognosis is generally very good.
If you’ve suffered with back pain in the past, you may have been advised to rest. This was the most common approach until the late 1990’s when it was found to actually make people worse! Motion is lotion as they say and spinal mobilisation, manipulation and massage, combined with exercise, have been shown to be far more effective than rest.
Before you go rushing off to the gym however, take a moment to consider the following ‘red flags’. If your back pain falls into any of these categories, you should definitely give me a call or see your GP for further assessment:
1) You’ve had a sudden change in bowel or bladder habits.
2) You’ve noticed numbness around your groin or rectal area.
3) You’ve recently been ill, had a fever, or you’ve lost weight without dieting.
4) The onset of your back pain followed a heavy fall or slip.
5) Your pain is constant even when lying down.
6) Your back pain wakes you at night and prevents you from getting back to sleep.
7) Your back feels particularly stiff for over an hour in the mornings.
For more information or advice please call 0115 9335797 or click on the image below to watch a short, brilliantly illustrated and informative video by Dr Mike Evans explaining different aspects of low back pain.