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Managing Your Lower Back Pain

There has been much research into lower back pain and the best ways to manage it. This ranges from medications, therapy, heat packs through to surgery and other extreme measures. I believe the longer someone has been experiencing this pain (especially with unsuccessful interventions) the more likely that person is to fixate on this pain and withdraw from work and normal daily activities, ultimately letting the pain dictate one’s overall quality of life. There is research looking into chronic pain and its psychological components. This physiological component can play a strong role in an individual’s mindset incurring negative beliefs about pain and of the movements that do not aid in recovery. 

To counter this mindset, I’ve got some tips and ways of thinking about managing lower back pain often include:

  • Pain does not necessarily mean that there is tissue damage.
    • Pain can often result in more ‘guarded’ or stiff movement patterns and thus may lead to apprehension in performing certain tasks or movements.
  • Tissue does heal and depending on the extent of tissue injury, soft tissue will heal within a certain time frame. 
  • The usual process is if one step fails then you naturally graduate to the next step.
    • For example, if conservative management fails, then you may progress to the next stage which may be surgery.
    • This should not be the automatic response by patients, surgeons, specialists or any health professional as it reinforces that something is ‘broken’ or ‘unfixable’ without radical interventions.
  • It IS safe to exercise with pain (again, pain does not indicate tissue damage).
  • Guarded or fearful movements can impact one’s mental health – as you avoid certain activities/tasks/sports that you would otherwise normally enjoy.
  • Don’t panic when pain kicks in or increases, focus on breathing and relaxing and reducing any fearful or stiff movements.
  • The goal is to do a little exercise every day, but not too much more.
    • Gradually exposure your body to those movements you may feel apprehensive about little by little.

I think by understanding why your pain is occurring and try to make sense of the pain it can aid in recovery. Speak to your local exercise physiologist if you need more guidance and information on exercising with chronic lower back pain and adopting a gradual approach to regular exercise.

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