Back Pain

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How common is back pain?

Back pain is very common – it’s one of the 3 most common reasons that people consult their doctor.  And lower back pain affects 80% of the adult population at some time in their lives.  It’s sometimes referred to as “lumbago”, which doesn’t really mean anything other than “you have low back pain”.

Do you have a sore back?  If you don’t, you will know many people who have this problem, whether that be lower, mid, or upper back pain.  It almost seems that we humans have a design flaw, doesn’t it?  With so many people suffering, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t a fundamental problem with the way we evolved into an upright posture.

The spine is complex but robust

The human spine consists of 24 vertebrae.  As children we have more bones (33), but the lower few fuse together so that as an adult you have just the 24.  The coccyx – often thought of as your tail-bone – is made up of 4 tiny childhood bones fusing together, and the sacrum is made of of 5 fusing together.

Despite how common back pain is, the spine is a fairly robust structure.  It protects the spinal cord and nerves and serves as attachment for 40 individual muscles.  These muscles control the position (posture) and movement of the spine.  It is widely believed that a lot of back pain is related to muscular dysfunction (see more below).

Isn’t back pain a minor complaint?

No. Because lower back pain is the world’s leading cause of disability.  Across your lifetime, it is likely to cause you more disability than Asthma, Alzheimers, All Cancers, Diabetes and Heart disease combined.

image showing back pain disability

Back pain relief – top tips

Stay active

If you have an aching back, it’s really important to remain as active as the pain permits.  The rules are slightly different, depending on how long you’ve had your pain.

Should you use painkillers?

The recommendations on this are changing.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are often prescribed.  But there’s recent evidence they may prolong pain, and healing time.  Codeine is sometimes prescribed.  But opioids can cause dependency, and are considered unhelpful for long-term pain.  The can cause more problems than they solve.

Back Pain Treatment

There is evidence that osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage are helpful.  (If you’re looking for an emergency osteopath in Edinburgh, you’ve found one. We will answer the phone 24/7/365. Osteopathy back pain services in Edinburgh for a patient with back pain

What causes it?

It’s important that you exclude possible disease processes.  These are rarely the cause.  But pain can be caused by underlying disease.  And a back pain specialist can work out the probability for you by combining your history (what you tell us), with examination findings.  At Active X we start to do that before we even see you, by sending you a link to an online form, as soon as you book your appointment.  The form includes questions to help determine whether you have an increased likelihood of spinal pathology.

“Non-specific back pain”

Often, it’s difficult to identify the cause.  Doctors frequently label this “non-specific back pain”.  For sufferers, it’s one of the most frustrating aspects to having a sore back – everyone has a different explanation.  If you consult two different clinicians about the same problem, they will almost certainly give different diagnoses.

As commented above, muscular tension and joint strain are often assumed to be the cause.

Back Pain Diagnosis versus Functional Assessment

At Active X we provide a Functional Assessment for low back pain.  While we help you understand the likely causes, it’s arguably more important for you to know what to do to get better.  And what to avoid.  This is where the Functional Assessment comes in. We will provide a FA at your first appointment.

And if it’s appropriate, you’ll leave with details on which exercises will relieve your pain.

Back in pain – prevention

We have more to say on this than we can fit into a short article, but the below tips are tried and tested – and based on the scientific evidence.

Moving often helps to prevent all types of pain.  Don’t stay still longer than you have to.

Try to manage the loads you place on your back.  If you suddenly increase the amount of load on your back, that’s a good way to injure yourself.

Avoid static postures like sitting or standing for long periods.  This is related to the first point above.

Stress is really bad for increasing the risk of long-term pain too.  Try to find stress-relieving tactics.

Have a supportive mattress.  But make sure it’s not too hard for you either.

Having achieved relief of their back pain, many of our clients opt for a plan for prevention. This means we identify your personal risk factors and you decide which of those you’d like to work on.  We will then support you in making those changes.  Coaching you to a better, stronger back.

When to see a doctor for your back pain

If you answer “yes” to any of the below, we recommend you see a clinician specialising in this area:

Compared with during your waking day, is your pain worse when trying to sleep?

Have you lost any great amount of weight without meaning to over the last year?

Have you been diagnosed with Cancer at any time?

Have you had lower back surgery in the last 2 years?

Do you have any numbness (lack of sensation) or pins and needles in your pelvic floor area (up between your upper thighs, the area you would sit on if on a saddle)?

Have you had any recent change in sexual function?  Loss of feeling, erection or ability to orgasm?

Do you have any difficulty urinating or defecating (using the toilet)?

Have you suffered any significant trauma recently, which in any way could impact on your lower back?

Have you been on a prolonged course of oral corticosteroids (steroids by mouth) in the past or now?

Have you had a persistent high temperature or chills recently?

If you do answer yes to one of the above, please contact us, rather than rushing off to your doctor.

AXB has specialised in relief AND prevention since 1993.  Our team, based in the West End of Edinburgh are keen to help you.

Secure your appointment today, by clicking the Book Now button.