Our spines are amazing. They hold us upright, the allow us to bend, flex, respond to whatever life throws at us. However, back or spinal pain is a common problem for many of us and can be a source of distress. Most back problems are usually resolved in weeks or months, but for some people back problems become a way of life and become described as “chronic”, meaning of more than 3 months duration. Here are some things that may help you to know about chronic pain, or to help you understand someone you love who is suffering.
Chronic Back Problems are Really Common
Chronic pain is estimated to affect 1 in 10 of the UK population at any one time and is a growing cause of disability.
Chronic Back Pain can be distressing
People with chronic back pain can be affected at an emotional level because of how it interferes with daily tasks and also because of fears around longer term issues and disability.
Chronic Back Pain can affect your sleep
Chronic pain is commonly associated with poor sleep. And poor sleep in itself can exacerbate existing conditions and make them worse, or at least make it difficult to heal. A study showed sleep problems in 56% of people with chronic back pain, compared with 10% in the general population. Sleep loss and broken sleep is also associated with an increased inflammatory response which may make symptoms worse.
Chronic Back Pain can be helped
It’s easy to feel disempowered. Many people with pain have already been told there is nothing that can be done and to live with it…. However, there are many steps you can take and here are some of the best:
- Keep active – yes it’s not the first thing you think of when you are in pain. But moving and gentle exercise have been shown over and over to help. The first step is often to walk more. As little as 30 minutes per day (can be in separate sessions) can make a difference.
- Quit smoking – most people don’t know that smoking reduces flow of oxygen to the spine, which is needed to nourish the spine and associated parts. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of disc degeneration and is a risk factor for disc injury.
- Include gentle stretching into your daily routine. It is associated with pain relief and increased mobility. Seek advice from your chiropractor or other qualified health professional to find the right stretches for you
- Talk to your local chiropractor to find out how they may be able to help you with the symptoms of chronic back pain. You may be pleasantly surprised as to what is possible.
The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Published online March 24 2014, Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al.
Chronic low back pain and psychological comorbidity : A review. Bletzer J1, Gantz S2, Voigt T2, Neubauer E2, Schiltenwolf [Article in German]
Chronic low back pain and the risk of depression or anxiety symptoms: insights from a longitudinal twin study. The Spine Journal (2017), Fernandez, Matt et al: Web.
Do patients with chronic back pain sleep well?. The Spine Journal (2008), Purushothaman, Balaji et al: Web