A reminder to follow my own advice
The majority of patients I see have back problems. Over eighty percent of the population of the UK will have at least one episode of back pain at some point in their life and over thirty percent report back pain at any one time! It’s a big problem and I am well aware of it. So you’d think that I would have had that thought somewhere in the back of my mind whilst I was carrying heavy boxes around all day when I recently moved home.
Like most people I guess I tried to do too much too quickly to get it all done. I tried to be careful how I lifted and got help with things that were too awkward or heavy. But knowing this didn’t stop me from having quite a sore back for the next couple of days. On reflection I didn’t try hard enough and didn’t really follow the advice I would give others. I thought physiotherapists were immune to back pain!
There was no real moment ‘my back went’ and no particular situation I can blame it on. It was just the accumulation of repetitive movements and loading that my back was not used to. This is a common scenario and I think this type of situation accounts for most of the back pain I see clinically. A sudden change in activity that the body isn’t used to. In fact it works both ways. You have the person who doesn’t do a lot of exercise and then moves house or suddenly decides to hit the gym or the person who is used to being active and is then stuck behind a desk for hours on end because work gets busy.
You see this all over the body. It won’t be too long before we start to see an influx of people complaining of hip, knee or foot pain because their training regime for the marathon is a bit more than their body can handle. And then it will be the gardeners at spring time.
The fact of the matter is that the body is very good at adapting to what we want it to do but it does so a lot slower than we’d like. And it prefers variety rather than repetitive movements or sustained postures. That’s why pacing activities better allows your body time to adjust and prevent most of these problems occurring. That’s what I tell my patients, that’s not what I did myself.
Never mind, my back felt better after a few days of relative rest and gentle exercise and I’m sure if I had to do the same thing again my body would be better prepared for it.
I guess the moral of the story is that it is better to take your time and pace new, unusual or increased activity to allow your body to adjust. But if you do overdo it and your body lets you know by becoming a bit sore, it doesn’t have to be a big problem. It can resolve quite quickly with a little relative rest and gentle exercise.
Sage advice for all of us to follow… Even physiotherapists!