Today we’re going to look at some of the steps people take to deal with their back pain which are not particularly helpful. The first of these is rest, avoidance of movement.
Studies consistently show that resuming normal activities and keeping active are vital components of recovery from back pain. Fear of movement, while understandable, can prolong pain and even lead to persistent or chronic pain despite the healing of damaged tissue, something we looked at in the March blog. According to the evidence, even altered movement, like bending forward from the waist or tilting your pelvis under should be avoided as you recover from an episode of back pain. This is because these changes, if carried on for too long, can themselves have harmful consequences.
Another adaptation which seems to have little effect on back pain is trying to sit up straight. There are lots of ergonomic manuals urging people to adopt a very upright sitting position at work but there is little evidence that these sorts of postures offer any more protection from back pain than slouching. Turns out, varying your posture is probably best when it comes to sitting and this includes getting up and moving around frequently if possible.
Finally, another behaviour that comes in for criticism is the avoidance of bending, lifting and twisting. People often hurt their backs doing these things and so it seems reasonable to conclude that they are dangerous activities. But while it is true that a particularly violent or poorly supported movement can lead to injury, bending, twisting and lifting are all things we need to do as part of normal life. Our backs are strong and resilient and these movements help keep them that way.
* Mary O'Keeffe (University of Limerick), Dr Kieran O'Sullivan (University of Limerick), Dr Derek Griffin (Tralee Physiotherapy Clinic) “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Back Pain” in Independent.ie July 14, 2015