CHRONIC BACK PAIN

Chronic back pain refers to any pain that has been on-going for more than 3 months.

Like any form of back pain, chronic back pain typically starts with some degree of muscle or joint strain. The majority of injuries to our body will fully heal within 6-12 weeks but unfortunately pain does not always resolve at the same time.

This type of pain can range from a mild ache to even severe pain in some cases. Our pain response can be affected by many different factors including our Physical fitness, stresses at home or work and even our general mood. 

Pain is a complex thing which is learned over our lifetime and can vary based upon different experiences. We have all seen a young child fall and look around to an adult before deciding whether to cry or not. This is an example of how we learn from our own experiences of what can cause us harm. We have all been in the situation of receiving a static shock from something we touch, naturally we are very reluctant to touch that item again. This is our brains way of trying to protect us from something potentially harmful.  

Pain itself does not necessarily mean that any ‘damage’ has been caused but it is our brains way of trying to identify that something is potentially harmful. This is very different from something being harmful to the body. 

When it comes to back pain, over time and from learned experiences that we witness or hear about, our nervous system can become over sensitive to normal day-day stimulus. This can result in over sensitive skin and frequent muscles spams. As our body tries to protect us, it will make different structures more sensitive to stop us moving as far and doing as much, ultimately trying to protect us. 

Unfortunately, as our nervous system becomes more sensitive, we can find that doing normal and ‘safe’ activities also becomes more difficult and gradually becomes more painful too. In order to manage this abnormal pain response, we need to try and gradually increase our exposure to these difficult activities, in order to retrain the brain like we would any muscle. At the same time, we want to improve the general flexibility and strength of the muscles and joints in the back, otherwise, overtime they will gradually become more de-conditioned and result in other problems.

Exercises which help can include any activity that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling, swimming or even running. It is expected that everyone will be at different levels of ability or be able to complete activities for different durations, but as long as you work within you tolerance levels then you can set yourself targets to gradually increase the activity you have chosen to do. 

If you were training for a marathon you will never get there if you only run 100 meters at a time, but by increasing your own exercise duration and intensity on a regular basis, great improvements can be made! 

In some cases, if your pain is severe then you may benefit from speaking to a medical practitioner about the use of medication-based treatments to help with your activity levels. Analgesia will not reduce pain to a level where harm can then occur.