Back Pain Clinic Principle 1 – “Pain is a warning system”
This is the first of our principles. The first few are pretty health/medically orientated. The last 2 less so. I believe they are all very important, otherwise I wouldn’t publish them on our Active X Backs Homepage. I’ve been an Edinburgh Osteopath for 27 years now. And for at least the first half of those I didn’t think very hard about our operating principles. Of course, I did have some, but I didn’t explicitly articulate them. I think it’s really helpful to be transparent about how we approach things and how we make decisions.
We are all confronted with many many decisions to make every day. And as clinicians specialising in back pain and sciatica treatment, the Active X Backs team are constantly reaching conclusions and making decisions. Without a reference framework to measure things against, we would be like virgins every day we came to work.
So what about Back Pain Clinic Principle 1?
“Pain is a warning system”. Think about it… If you put your hand on something very hot and it wasn’t painful, you might just leave it there. Eventually the smell of burning flesh might encourage you to remove it, but by then the damage is severe. This is because the evolutionary and biological purpose of pain is to protect us.
So when you first get back pain or sciatica, this is your body’s way of alerting you to danger. And the body’s pretty smart too. It will often warn you before you’ve actually incurred any damage. This could be why your back spasms. It’s a warning. “Don’t go there Betty. Don\’t do that. Be careful.”
What if you ignore pain?
That would be really silly. If the fire alarm bell rings at work, would you ignore it? Would you just turn it off and not bother to find out why it was ringing (taking painkillers)? I’d recommend you investigate why you have pain, and deal with the cause, rather than treating the symptom.
What about chronic pain?
If you have pain for more than 12 weeks, this is classified as chronic pain. Around this time it’s likely your pain has outlived its usefulness. And it’s now likely that 1 or both of the below have happened:
- You’ve continued to do things which are actually preventing healing from progressing, meaning you’re stuck in the inflammatory stage of healing.
- Your spinal cord and brain have become sensitised. This is called central sensitisation and is all-too common. Essentially your nervous system can learn pain.
I’m not going to explore this further here. This post is simply meant to be a place to elaborate on our first principle.