Back to Back with Pain
Things you need to know about back pain
Back problems as we all know, are very, very common. It is important to remember that back pain is a symptom – a cautionary signal from the body, it is not a disease. It is a signal, which is probably telling you that one, or more parts of your back are having problems in capably doing their job.
Pain comes in 3’s
There are three main categories of back pain.
Simple back pain: Most people (95% of sufferers) have simple back pain. It is also known as mechanical, non-specific, ordinary backache and lumbago. Lots of names for this type of back problem have been invented over the years, but to save confusion, we will stick with the term, simple back pain.
Simple back pain is caused by irritation of one or more of the muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, discs or joints and often how the pain originally started is unclear. It can cause a severe level of pain, but it doesn’t mean you have a major problem with your back.
Nerve root pain: Only 5% of us who suffer from back pain will discover we have a nerve root irritation. This is when a spinal nerve becomes damaged and irritated. Nerve root pain can cause sciatica; simple back pain does not cause sciatica.
Other: Some back problems (less that 1%) can turn out to be serious, such as cancer or an infection. These problems often show themselves clearly – the pain is persistent, unrelated to activity and associated with unexplained symptoms like a high temperature or a change in bowel habit (see your doctor if you are unsure of the cause of your pain).
Why is pain important?
‘We cannot learn without pain’ Aristotle
Pain is the most common symptom of all back problems. Firstly, let’s remind ourselves that pain is only a signal, it is not a disease and it doesn’t have to mean endless agony or terrible back problems. It is important. We shouldn’t fear pain. It is our body’s very clever way of communicating to our conscious mind, that something is wrong.
Pain frequently challenges us in a positive way. The pain in a runner’s leg after a long run is no different to the pain we feel in our backs after a day’s gardening. The runner sees his pain as a normal part of his training. We often see back pain as a terrible infliction. Pain is an essential symbol, which gives us a chance to reach a place of better health; to become stronger both mentally and physically. There is really no difference between the athlete and the non-athlete; it is how we perceive pain, which sets us apart.
Pain is exclusive
Pain is incredibly personal. Everyone’s experience of back pain is different and unique, even if we have the same problem our sense of pain differs, which can change from person to person, day to day and hour to hour. Bad pain for you might be another person’s mild ache and an ache to you might feel brutal to someone else.
Pain in the brain
Simple back pain can last from a few hours to a few weeks and might feel unbearable at times and sometimes we think that there must be something really terrible happening to cause such discomfort.
The fact is that most back problems are the ‘simple’ kind and although the pain may feel really bad, its intensity is often misleading and it really isn’t as awful as it sometimes feels. That is why although the cause of pain is in the body; our brain (and our mind) has a potent influence over our perception of pain
If you have suffered from back pain previously, your brain would have recorded how you interpreted the pain. If the experience was really bad and made you feel depressed or angry, that experience might affect how you interpret future episodes of back pain, even if the next episode is milder.
Pain facts – summary
- Pain is the most common symptom with back problems. It is not a disease.
- Pain is an ingenious signal, which can help you to become healthier than before you had pain.
- Understanding your pain is the most important thing you can do to speed up recovery.
- Try not to worry – really bad pain doesn’t mean really bad things.
- Simple back pain is usually caused by a mild irritation to parts of the back. Understanding why it happened can help prevent future episodes.
- The pain signal passes through to the brain and is influenced by our emotions. So how we interpret pain is important for long-term recovery.
Next blog – gain from pain.
Any questions, just ask.