Category: Network Chiropractic/NSA

Low Back Pain – Prevention and Maintenance

00Back Pain, Blog, General Health, Network Chiropractic/NSA

Our clients regularly ask – what can I do to keep my back in good shape. My answer is usually along the same lines…..

How often do you brush your teeth? What happens if you constantly eat sugar and never pay any attention to oral hygiene? Or how about your car? Do you get the oil changed and the engine checked on a regular basis? If a warning light comes on do you get your car checked or do you remove the light bulb?

This brings up two answers:

  1. What do you need to do on a daily/regular basis to look after your spine?
  2. Who do you see to get your spine “tuned up” so that it works optimally?

Most people actually know the answer to question 1, they just prefer not to action it.

To look after your spine and back the most important aspects are:

  • Movement and exercise
  • Good nutrition
  • Avoid risk factors

Movement and Exercise

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are creating a whole host of spinal problems from “Text neck” to chronic low back problems. It is important, if you have a sedentary job, to get up and move at least once every 45 minutes, if only to get a drink of water or walk to talk to a colleague rather than calling them internally. Our bodies need to move. It helps keep them healthy. I also found this simple video, from a colleague chiropractor, which shows simple mobilisation exercises (double check the link) you can do whilst sitting at your desk.

Regular stretching can also help your back. Working your core muscles has become fashionable in recent years. This is not a fad. It works. However you need to commit yourself to at least one class per week of either yoga or pilates (or something similar) and practice at home too to get the benefits.

Your lifestyle will have a big impact on your spine and back. Walk whenever you can, rather than taking the lift or driving. Movement is the most important way of keeping healthy and we are doing less and less.

Nutrition

I was chatting with a client last week and she said her doctor had told her that changing her childrens diet would make absolutely no difference to their symptoms (both her kids are on the autistic spectrum). She has already established that certain foods make her kids inattentive or hyperactive so she obviously disagrees with her doctor. But take a look at this. If you eat a healthy balanced diet, full of good vegetables and fruits with high quality proteins and grains you are going to have a very different body to the person who lives on junk food and cheap carbohydrate. It may be a cliché but you are what you eat.

I’m not about to tell you what diet you should follow because years of experience has shown me that we are all different and whilst one person does very well on a raw or vegan diet, another will do better on a more paleo type of diet. You need to find out what suits your body. But I will say limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol and excessive carbohydrate and you will feel the benefits.

Risk Factors

Did you know that one of the biggest risk factors for a herniated (slipped) disc is smoking?

The main risk factors are summarised below:

  • Age – most disc injuries occur between 30 and 50 years of age
  • Being Male – not much you can do about this
  • Smoking – disc pain is horrible. If you have it and you smoke this is a great reason to stop
  • Obesity – obvious really, if you lose weight you put less pressure on your body
  • Sedentary work or Physically demanding work – especially that which involves bending and twisting
  • Family History – if it’s in the family you are more likely to have a disc injury. The jury is out as to whether this is purely genetic or if families tend to have the same behaviours and hence the same injuries. If it’s in your family I’d have a serious look at your weight, your lifestyle and habits and see if you are all doing the same thing and it may be predisposing you to disc problems

Regular Spinal Checks

As someone who suffered from almost constant back ground back pain punctuated with episodes of severe pain, throughout her 20’s, regular chiropractic care changed my life. It changed it so much I went to chiropractic school, and whilst I’m not recommending that most people need to go to chiropractic school, I believe passionately that nothing beats a good chiropractic adjustment from an experienced chiropractor when it comes to looking after the spine. We have chosen to use Network Spinal Analysis as our main technique because it helped me so profoundly. You need to find the right chiropractor for you.

How often should I go?

Personally I get adjusted every week and that suits my lifestyle which is very active and I constantly challenge my body to do more and more. You may find that twice monthly works for you or even once a month. For me, less than that is more about crisis care than optimising your spinal function.

So it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to function at your best all of the time and optimize your spine and nervous system function I would get adjusted weekly or fortnightly. If your goals are to stay out of pain and less about function, then you may find less frequent works for you. It’s a choice and only you can decide. Talk to your chiropractor and see what he or she recommends to meet your goals.

Summary

So my recommendations to keep your spine healthy and happy are:

  • Keep moving. Find exercise that works for you and that you enjoy
  • Eat healthily – obvious really
  • Reduce your Risk Factors
  • Get your Spine Checked by a qualified Health Care Professional and get the care you need to support your lifestyle

Back Pain – A National Health Issue?

00Back Pain, Blog, General Health, Network Chiropractic/NSA

So how big is the problem of Back Pain in the UK? 

  • It is estimated that in the UK approximately 2.6 million people seek advice from their GP each year on back pain
  • One year after the first episode of back pain it is estimated that 62% will still have pain
  • Most people symptoms improve in the first 3 months, but after this there is little improvement in symptoms
  • It is estimated that 84% of people will suffer from back pain at some point in their life
  • The most current data available came from 1998 and estimated that the cost to the NHS of treating all back pain was more than £1000 million per year, and for low back pain was in excess of £500 million per year. A further £623 million was related to services provided by the private sector
  • In 2013 it is estimated that 31 million working days were lost to back, neck and muscle problems costing the UK economy £14 billion per year.

 

So what is Chronic Back Pain?

Chronic back pain is defined as pain lasting for more than 6 weeks duration. It does not include back pain caused by ongoing malignancy or infection but is referring to musculoskeletal back pain.

Chronic back pain include pain that is described as a persistent ache anywhere in the spine. It is associated with stiffness, soreness and inflammation and may range from mild to severe or a dull ache to a sharp pain.

It is not always possible to identify the cause of back pain, though in some cases it can be attributed to a direct injury to a disc or an accident.

Lifestyle choices can have a big impact on chronic back pain.

Risk factors include the following:

  • Being overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Occupation (especially those that require lifting/twisting or excessive sitting)

What can You do about it?

In the UK we are experts at “making do” and “getting on with it”. Many of the people I work with have often suffered in silence for years even decades before seeking help or taking action.

I would always recommend seeking advice of a qualified health care practitioner who in an expert in the spine, as not only can they give you advice they can also rule out more sinister causes of back pain such as malignancy.

So the first obvious thing you can do is look at your risk factors and reduce them as much as you can. I find the two easiest ones you can start with are levels of activity and looking at your posture.

Stay Active / Get Active: This is one of the most important things to do, not only for your spinal health but for your overall health. If you don’t already walk on a regular basis it’s a great place to start. There are numerous apps available that allow you to monitor your activity and share it with friends (if that motivates you) such as MapMyWalk. A starting point can simply be taking the stairs not the lift at work. You know what your current levels are. How can you improve on that?

I personally think that yoga and/or pilates are also great ways of helping yourself to improve your spinal strength and flexibility. I have found that it is less about the technique and more about finding the right teacher for you. So I suggest you try several classes and even private sessions until you find someone that resonates with your needs.

Improve your Posture

Over time poor posture can distort the natural alignment of your spine. In our technology driven world, many of us are stooped over computers or smart phones for hours each day. I’ve yet to find a UK app that I rate, but the StraightenUpCanada app produced by the Canadian Chiropractic Association provides simple stretches that can help you to focus on your posture and relieve aches and pain.

Long Term Solutions

For some people resolving and managing back pain is not something they can do on their own. If pain relief is your only concern, medication is probably the answer. But if you want to get to the root of the problem and change, talk to your local chiropractor who will have spent a minimum of 4 years studying in depth how the spine works and what to do when it goes wrong.

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11709/

Arthritis Research Campaign. Arthritis the big picture. Arthritis Research Campaign. 2002

Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Manniche C. Low back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations. Eur Spine J. 2003;12(2):149–165

Pengel LH, Herbert RD, Maher CG, Refshauge KM. Acute low back pain: systematic review of its prognosis. BMJ. 2003;327(7410):323

http://www.nhsemployers.org/news/2015/04/bad-backs-cost-the-uk-31-million-days-of-work