The Biggest Mistake With Back Pain!

This is one of the worst things you can do with your back….please do not do this. I was chatting with one of our clients Kate about this just this week.

She is 63, mother of two, grandmother of five. Kate is amazing. She is one of the fittest 63-year-olds that I know and works full time. However, she does suffer from a chronic back issue which has been going on since she had her kids forty years ago. This is an all too common occurrence that many ladies tell me when they come to the clinic. There are two groups: ladies in their 30s and 40s who’ve just had kids that are one or two years old and found that throughout their pregnancies and when the babies were little, they developed back neck issues. The other group are in their 50s and 60s and have had back issues for the last twenty to thirty years that started after having kids.

For the first group, the young mums carrying a child is an incredibly stressful time emotionally but also physically on the body. In the third trimester the body releases a hormone called relaxin to allow the pelvis to expand during labour to allow the birth of the baby. This presents problems, as the baby grows in utero it puts more stress through the pelvis, which due to the relaxin is more malleable and can cause more pain. One of the most common pelvic issues in pregnancy is symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) where the pelvis becomes so loose that the front joint begins to rub and becomes inflamed causing immense pain when the mother walks.

What happens to the back after childbirth?

After birth, the mother’s pelvis is obviously moved in a different position. She has very little time to get anything sorted let alone do any home exercises to strengthen her pelvis. She’s doing a great job caring for the baby. Overtime, that baby only goes one way weight wise, and that is up. As the baby gets heavier, the demands through the mother’s body increase and the already problematic pelvis begins to present again. This is a cycle that can carry on for a number of years depending on how many children the mother has.

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The pelvis doesn’t return to normal and then the mother falls into category two, and twenty-thirty years later the pain becomes so bad that enough is enough. “Doctor Jeremy please help, my back pain started after my kids. Eighteen years of lifting them up, running around after them and ferrying them in the car has taken its toll, please help!” It was only when I first had my son I realised what mothers have to go through day to day, always putting the kids before them; mothers you are amazing! But you must look after yourself to be able to look after others. Don’t leave it too long and don’t suffer until the kids leave home.

So back to Kate, I got side-tracked. Kate is one of these mothers that had pain after her kids and left it. Now, thirty years later, she has decided to get something fixed. I asked her what she used to do to get rid of the back pain when it came on? She told me she would take painkillers and lie in bed for five days until it went away.

The episodes at the start would happen once a year and she would be laid up for almost a week. However, in the past ten years, the episodes are happening every three months more intensely and even lying in bed wouldn’t fix the issue.

The Biggest Mistake With Back Pain!

This brings me back to the title of the blog: ‘‘The Biggest Mistake’! This is one of the old treatment methods for back pain back in the 50s and 60s. Patients were told by GPs to go home and put a hot water bottle on it while staying in bed until the pain resolved. We now know this is not effective anymore.

When Kate has back pain, her back will go into full spasm, and it will pull her hip up on the right side. She won’t be able to straighten her back and will be walking (in her words) like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Let me explain what is happening here, the body is incredibly clever and by putting the back muscles into spasm is protecting the spinal cord and the discs from any damage. If Kate tries to move too far, therefore putting pressure on a disc or causing the disc to herniate, the muscle tightens up, causing pain and acting as a warning signal to not go any further.

The caveat: if you lie in bed for too long the muscles get stiffer, no blood gets to the area and it takes longer to recover. The muscles need to move, they need to have oxygen and vitamins going through them to reduce the spasm. Not immediately, but it does have to happen gradually. Therefore, gentle movements are the best way to reduce back pain in the short term.

I myself have suffered with back issues in the past and have recurring L5/S1 discs. Before I knew about Chiropractic and good spinal health my back would go into full spasm, and I too would rest in bed for two days at a time before things were back to normal, until I was told to keep moving, to which I muttered many expletives towards the person that recommended this.

The first few steps getting out of bed in the morning would be like no other pain, lightning bolts in the back shooting into the buttocks bringing tears to my eyes. Honestly, I have not had a pain like it; you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, and this is one of the reasons lower back pain is one of the main causes of disability worldwide.

I took the advice and kept moving with small steps around the house on one level, but no stairs just yet. As the hours went on, I would get more flexible and more mobile, and the hardness and swelling in the muscles would gradually reduce. And then in the evening the pain would dissipate, and I was back almost to full function. It’s important to remember that there’s still a lot of inflammation and swelling in the spine which is there for a reason, to protect the disk and nerves. So, going back to running, sitting for long periods or going to the gym was always a bad idea.

When I told this story to Kate, she thought I was crazy, and although she hasn’t had any severe back spasms since being under Chiropractic care, she gets the odd niggle after gardening or the gym, but rather than resting with her feet up she carries on moving and ensures it doesn’t develop into the old back spasms she used to have.

You may be reading this thinking there’s absolutely no way I can move when my back is bad. I hear you; I was there, but even small movements just to get you out of the bed will make a huge difference in the recovery from a back spasm. 

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If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

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