Expert Tips for Back Pain Relief and Prevention

Expert Tips for Back Pain Relief and Prevention

Waking up with back pain or struggling to put your socks on in the morning can be tough. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from back pain, with 1 in 6 Australians reporting having back problems.

We see it ALL the time at O-health. It is THE most common presentation we encounter. As a result, we’ve become highly proficient at understanding how you’re feeling, what is actually happening, and what we can do to help you return to the activities you love. We’ve tapped into the expertise of Scott, one of our Osteopaths, who has shared some invaluable insights gained over the last 5 years treating back pain at O-health.

Understanding Back Pain

Back pain can arise from various structures in your back and for a variety of reasons. We are experts in diagnosing the cause of the pain and determining the appropriate course of action. The common reasons we see people with back pain are:

  • Deconditioning (a polite way of saying you don’t move enough and have lost strength).
  • Uncoordinated or uncontrolled movement (imagine picking a sock off the floor and feeling your back ‘grab’).
  • Overuse, typically from sitting, but occasionally from lifting. The body loves movement, and if we don’t move, it becomes stiff, sore, and deconditioned.
  • Overweight and obesity, resulting from increased load through the back due to weight, and the inherently inflammatory nature of adipose tissue causing a disproportionately strong or chronic inflammatory response (such as osteoarthritis).

The common structures that cause pain:

  • Joints
  • Discs
  • Muscle (often spasm due to nerve irritation).

The great news is that resolution with back pain typically occurs within 2-3 weeks. However, early diagnosis and management of symptoms such as pain along the spine, radiating pain into the hips and legs, stiffness, or discomfort with movement are crucial for rapid recovery. Getting you out of pain is typically quite quick and straightforward; the bigger challenge is addressing the factors that caused the pain in the first place to reduce your risk of it happening again. With every subsequent bout of back pain, you are more likely to have more back pain, move less, experience more pain, and change more of your daily behaviors and habits, which leads to further deconditioning, weight gain, and reduction in coordination. A downward spiral begins, but with appropriate behavior change, education, and exercise, you can make enormous changes. It may not happen quickly, but you can make dramatic improvements in strength, control, and pain within 12 months. We know this because we measure our effectiveness by benchmarking your function when you arrive and by re-testing before discharge.

Differentiating Acute and Chronic Back Pain

For patients experiencing acute back pain, remaining active is essential for recovery, as movement helps facilitate healing and prevents the negative cascade described above. However, chronic lower back pain is predominantly mechanical, and diagnosis often relies on thorough case history taking and physical examination rather than imaging. Imaging is really only helpful in a small minority of cases of back pain. Typically, we understand which structures are causing problems through our examinations. We don’t need to waste your time, money, or unnecessarily expose you to imaging that has limited utility.

Since people rarely have back pain due to only one of the causes above, we need to take a multifaceted approach to your plan. This will typically include manual therapy to make you feel better, exercise to speed recovery, maintain muscle strength/control, manage inflammation, and reduce pain, and education so your bout of back pain doesn’t unnecessarily stress you out (which unfortunately makes your pain worse and makes it take longer to heal!!). It’s crucial to address underlying factors contributing to chronic pain and implement targeted interventions for long-term relief.

Helping You Move Better

At O-health, Scott and our multidisciplinary team use a range of treatments to effectively manage back pain, including soft tissue therapy, joint manipulation, dry needling, and exercise prescription. We ensure that each part of your body moves as it should so that your whole body can function correctly. It’s pretty logical: if one part doesn’t move very well, then another part elsewhere needs to work harder. This can often only be sustained for so long before it is used beyond its capacity, resulting in pain and injury.

The Role of Hip Strength and Mobility

One of Scott’s top tips to help manage and prevent lower back pain is to prioritize hip strength and mobility. By focusing on stabilizing your hips and pelvis and promoting controlled movement throughout the trunk, you can reduce the risk of injury and improve overall function. Scott recommends dedicating 5-10 minutes to mobility exercises, followed by resistance training, setting the foundation for a healthy back and body. There are many exercises that can help ease lower back pain, but Scott’s top 5 exercises for lower back pain are:

For specific exercises tailored to your condition, please book an appointment with one of our team members.

While back pain may be common, it’s not something you have to deal with on your own. With the expert guidance and personalized care available at O-health, we can get you back to feeling your best. Book an appointment online or by calling 02 6021 2777.