According to Sydney’s Tamer Sabet, Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, the most common mistake people make managing their back pain is seeking out the wrong information early on.
“There are many perpetuating myths about how to look after your back when in a healthy state or following an episode of back pain. The effects of these myths can be further exacerbated by friends or loved ones who have suffered from back pain and who have dealt with their own back pain in a particular way.” This can be especially damaging for your back when treatments are made without proper consultation from a health professional.
“It’s best to seek out credible advice early on from an expert, such as a physiotherapist, as this can make a substantial difference in managing your back pain and reducing long-term damage.” There are many different types of back pain; most differ from person-to-person, but the most common causes of back pain (85%) Tamer treats as a physiotherapist is, non-specific back pain. This means the pain is caused by problems with the structures in the back and not due to a serious disease or back problems. Pain usually goes away after a few days or a few weeks. Idiopathic back pain can cause long-term pain, lasting for more than six months and can sometimes have no obvious, detectable physical or organic cause.
Less common causes such as nerve compromise or irritation can also present themselves to a physiotherapist. Very rare and more serious cases of back conditions are usually referred for an opinion by appropriate medical specialists. One of the most common myths associated with back pain, according to Tamer, is that back pain is caused only by physical activity; this however is not the case.
“In about 85% of back pain cases, structural causes for low back pain are not identifiable. Pain is the brain’s protective response to back injuries, so by understanding pain in this way, we can begin to take a bigger picture approach to better appreciate the causes of back pain such as evaluating physical, emotional, psychological, hormonal, and environmental contributions to an individual person’s back pain. “The myth that back pain is physical often results in temporary or permanent modifications to physical activities such as avoiding running, bending, and lifting whereas ceasing these activities may actually hinder our ability to exercise – which is the single most important preventative strategy for decreasing risks of recurrent back pain.”
In fact, for overall prevention of back pain, Tamer’s number one tip is regular exercise. “Regular exercise has been identified to significantly reduce the risk of further back pain by up to 40%. However, no evidence suggests there is one specific exercise or activity that is superior to another in respect to treatment and prevention of back pain. The most important aspect is simply the undertaking of regular exercise which may differ per preference and motivation of each individual.”
Tamer also recommends a good night’s sleep for managing back pain. “Sleep is a necessary part of human existence and it serves as a complex process that broadly restores the mind and body. In ensuring adequate comfort for sleep, the importance of a good mattress and pillow is critical. Attention to the individual’s body dimensions, weight, general sleep preferences as well as the material type, insulation characteristics that might influence temperature and the structure of the mattress or pillow, especially as it relates to preferred spinal support, the capacity to move and change position, while minimising body pressure are all very important.”
Overall, Tamer’s key piece of advice is to always visit a health professional such as a physiotherapist to determine the type of back pain and wait for a credible course of action before undergoing any back pain treatments.