Back Pain Action Plan
By Christopher Jones, Worcester Fitness Massage Therapist
Low back pain is one of the most common pain complaints in the United States, with about 80% of people having at least one incident of back pain in their lifetime. Globally, back pain causes more disability than 291 other health problems. In one study conducted in a joint effort between Australian and US-based researchers, 20 years of data from 187 countries showed that just over one-third of work-related disability was related to low back pain. That is a lot of missed work, missed play, and missed opportunities every day. So how did we get to a point where back pain is so common?
Let’s start with a quick look at the back. The back is a strong, supportive structure made up of the bones of the spinal column (24 vertebrae, sacrum, coccyx,) the shock-absorbing discs between the vertebrae, and all of the muscles and connective tissue responsible for movement and stability of the spine. Housed within the protective confines of the spine is the spinal cord, and between the vertebrae are the nerves that extend out to all parts of the body. When the back is strong and healthy, all of these structures work harmoniously to let us work, play, and live our lives. When back pain is experienced, however, it can make it difficult to engage in even the most basic of activities.
Back pain can have many causes, including degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis), disc degeneration, bulging disc or disc herniation, spondylolisthesis (one vertebrae slips forward), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal inside the spinal cord), tumors, and infection. Please note that these conditions can be present and produce no pain symptoms whatsoever. Unfortunately, the most common type of back pain is what is called “non-specific low back pain” where there is no apparent cause for the pain. Other factors that can contribute to back pain include prolonged periods of inactivity, poor lifting techniques, high-impact sports and activities, excessive sitting, and previous back injury. A growing body or current research also points to many psychological factors (anxiety, depression, job satisfaction) as contributing to back pain.
The good news to all this is that the best preventative strategy and treatment method for back pain is to keep moving! Regular physical activity, even something as simple as walking, has been shown to be the most effective tool to prevent and recover from episodes of back pain (especially non-specific low back pain). The best evidence for back pain management shows the effectiveness of a positive outlook on recovery, engaging in as many normal daily activities as possible, maintaining an active lifestyle, and the strategic short-term use of medication when needed. Interventions like heat, physical therapy, massage therapy, yoga, and psychotherapy have also been shown to be effective additions for the treatment and prevention of back pain.
Here at Worcester Fitness, we have a team of professionals ready to help with the prevention and treatment of back pain. Whether you are looking to improve your fitness with one of our experienced trainers, looking for pain relief from our expert massage therapists, or are wanting see if yoga or one of our pool exercise classes is a good fit for you, our team is ready to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction. Back pain, despite the numbers, does not have to be something that “just happens” or keeps you from enjoying the things you love to do. With the right steps, and some expert guidance, you can get back on track!