1. Be Educated
Not all back pain is the same. Don’t relate your back pain to your friends, your parents or your work colleague. Just because the pain is in the same location, it does not mean the outcome of your back pain is going to be the same as theirs. I advise you to seek expert opinion and be educated on not only the source of your pain (the what), but more importantly, the cause of your back pain (the why). A greater understanding of your back pain narrative will allow you to develop a more effective and sustainable coping strategy for your current and potentially future pain episodes.
2. Recognise Change and Modify Your Lifestyle
A change in lifestyle behaviours is a key element to back pain clinical presentations. Some back pains aren’t linked to a specific tissue injury or pathology and therefore they may not need to be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’. It may simply be an imbalance of output (what you choose to do) versus capacity (your strength to do what you choose to do). These may include a sudden increase in physical activity due to a DIY project, a newborn baby or a recreational event or holiday, where output levels may outweigh current capacity limits.
It can also be the opposite: a decrease in physical activity due to increased work hours, illness or an injury to another area of your body. In this circumstance your reduced output may lead to a deconditioning effect. Just remember, your back is not fragile, your back is a sophisticated mechanical structure made to bend, move and be loaded. Having a greater understanding of the link between your current lifestyle and your back pain may assist with you developing an effective management plan going forward.
3. Regular Exercise
It is important for people with a long history of back pain to stay active as prolonged periods of inactivity has been linked to slower recovery and undesirable outcomes. An exercise program is most beneficial when it contains the following features:
- Moderate intensity aerobic exercise which is classified as 40-60 per cent of your heart rate maximum. You can calculate your own HR Max by 200 minus your age.
- A more general approach to strength and conditioning including global leg and arm muscles, rather than only focusing in on specific core muscles.
- Stretches for your lumbar spine and hamstrings to improve lower back functional range of motion.
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Health professionals generally use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a variable in research when trying to determine the effect of weight on low back pain. BMI has not been shown to have a causative effect on low back pain. However, a BMI greater than 30 has been linked to poorer outcomes when attempting to recover from an episode of low back pain. It is not easy to lose body weight when you are experiencing an episode of low back pain as it will have significant restrictions on what and how much exercise you can perform. Some advice to assist during this time would be to focus on a healthy diet and perform your cardiovascular exercise in water-based therapy.
5. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Research has shown that more than 50 per cent of low back pain sufferers have sleep disturbances. Good sleep hygiene is defined as being able to fall asleep within 20-30 minutes of trying and then being able to stay asleep for the first five hours. There are many factors which may lead to poor sleep hygiene such as environmental issues (too much noise or light), psychological stresses and disorders, medical issues (sleep apnoea) and musculoskeletal pain. All must be assessed and treated accordingly. Regarding the presence of neck pain, having a comfortable pillow such as Dunlopillo which supports the natural curvature of your spine and is made from a high-density material so as not to lose shape, may assist with reducing your discomfort throughout the night and allow you to get a good night’s sleep.
To mark the 90 milestone birthday, Dunlopillo will offer customers their iconic pillow for $90 for a limited time from 12th August until mid September, available online and from authorised Dunlopillo stockists.