If you are like most people suffering from chronic low back pain, you probably have been experiencing pain and discomfort for some time. Many in this boat say that treatment works for a while, but the pain always seems to return. And there’s a reason for that. Often, the pain comes back with a vengeance because sufferers do not truly change what is causing the back pain in the first place.
Unfortunately there is no magic pill to cure back pain, but after many years of working with clients suffering from various degrees of the condition, I have seen firsthand how such pain can be managed and alleviated. While exercising and stretching plays a huge part in this, I believe that understanding your back pain and the cause of your symptoms is an integral component in developing a successful treatment plan. Below, I’ve identified five key components to help you get a handle on your lower back pain once and for all:
- Recognize that you may never get a definitive diagnosis. More than 80 percent of back pain has no identifiable cause. Back pain can be a normal aspect of aging, secondary to poor habits or a result of injury. Regardless, identifying the true cause of your pain will help you carve out the proper treatment plan that will result in lifelong success.
Which leads me to…
- Understand that what your MRI report says and what is actually causing the pain are very frequently two different things. Often times with a diagnosis of Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (HNP), the herniated disc may not be what is causing your pain at all. Rather, it could be the extra 50 pounds your midsection is carrying around, or the fact that you sit 10-12 hours a day. Here’s a great excerpt from a prominent New York radiologist: “Medical imaging is simply one piece of the clinical puzzle. An analogy can be made with astronomy. You can image the universe at visible light, x-ray, ultraviolet, infrared, etc. Each modality provides a vital, but incomplete picture of the universe. You have to put it all together to get the big picture.”
- Appreciate that where you are feeling pain and the cause of that pain is usually found in two different places. This point is probably most simply illustrated by the patient who comes in with complaints of pain in the bottom of the foot. Many patients with low back dysfunction will never actually report pain in their low back. Pain at the bottom of the foot can also be related to the lower lumbar nerve root coming from the spine. Even though there may not be any pain in the spine, that is the very location where the treatment should be focused.
- Acknowledge that even though you may be asymptomatic at this moment, you may still be a structural mess. So your physician prescribed some medications and an injection or two and your pain has disappeared. Please understand that while those treatments will help reduce inflammation, they do nothing at all to change the physical anatomy of your spine. Your pain will surely return. We should focus our time on things that will actually change our physical anatomy, such as stability training, stretching, balance, posture and body awareness.
Which brings me to…
- Consider starting a Pilates regimen. Pilates teaches us how to improve the mobility of our spine to decrease stresses placed on damaged discs. It also improves strength and flexibility, which is crucial in the recovery of back pain. A 2006 study reported in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that “Pilates can improve general health, pain level, sports functioning, flexibility in people with chronic low back pain”.
Christa Gurka - Not Your Average Pilates Instructor – Is an orthopedic physical therapist specializing in Pilates-based fitness, rehabilitation, injury prevention and weight loss, Christa Gurka’s reputation speaks for itself. With two decades of experience training those of all ages and fitness levels, the founder/owner of Miami’s Pilates in the Grove believes in offering her clients personal attention with expert and well-rounded instruction. For more information: 305.446.6899 / www.pilatesinthegrove.com