David Rogers, a physiotherapist based at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, has identified a radical new approach to promoting recovery from the scourge of back pain which affects 75 per cent of the UK population.
Changing what you think and do about back pain and introducing 7/11 breathing are two of 10 tips on a brand new list of what to do to get your own back on back pain.
He will be talking at The Back Pain Show 2017, a major new free-entry event taking place at St Andrew’s Stadium on 19 and 20 May staged by the UK charity Back Care, who have recognised the need for a stand-alone exhibition focussed solely on the issue.
David will be joined by a range of speakers and exhibitors ranging from providers of therapies and exercise regimes through to furniture designed to help aid posture in workplaces and the home. The Show will also focus on manual handling as an issue responsible for causing untold pain and lost working days in offices and factories. To register for free entry, go to www.thebackpainshow.co.uk.
David, co-author of the book “Back to Life” which offers a new way of dealing with back pain, says back pain affects nearly everyone one way or another.
“Whether it’s a sudden flare-up which stops us in our tracks or having to deal with persistent pain which prevents us doing the things that make us tick, back pain can often vary from day to day, making it difficult to plan things,” he said.
“Most of us will know of friends or relatives who struggle to live an active life due to back pain, and it’s common to feel helpless in being able to assist them back to the life they had before.”
“But the way we help people recover from back pain is changing, thanks to a large body of research and which has helped to re-write the rules on persistent back pain. Understanding these new rules and applying them to your own or others’ back problems will promote recovery and help you get back to doing the things in life you enjoy.”
David’s list of 10 tips is:
1 Don’t worry if no-one seems to be able to give you a consistent diagnosis. Most of the time it is impossible to diagnose a particular structure in your back which is causing your pain. Some common changes found on MRI scans in people with back pain, including slipped discs, worn or degenerative discs or trapped nerves are just as common in people who have never had back pain. Our current knowledge recognises that once any serious disease has been ruled out, most back pain is caused by a number of different factors which are closely linked to your pain experience.
2 Calm any worries you may have about damage. When back pain persists it feels like something is seriously damaged, but it rarely is. Worrying about damage, and how it might influence your future, plays a major role in preventing recovery when back pain persists. So keep any negative thoughts about damage to your back in check, and give yourself a reassuring word that it’s safe to get moving.
3 Return to activity gradually. It is common for people to become fearful of activity when back pain persists, particularly if it hurts. Returning to activity, initially at low levels, and building up gradually is the best approach, safe in the knowledge that any ongoing back pain isn’t harming you. It might hurt more to begin with, but remember this isn’t causing you any damage. It will feel easier as you repeat the activities over a few days and weeks.
4 Check your thoughts. Research tells us that people who think the worst when they experience a flare-up in back pain take longer to recover. So, if when your back goes, you find thoughts going through your head such as ‘I’ll never get over this’ or ‘how can I ever get back to normal again’ try to reframe them, to focus on recovery. Thoughts such as ‘I can get over this’ or ‘this will pass’ will focus your attention on recovery from a flare-up in back pain.
5 Do some breathing exercises. When back pain persists, it is common for muscles to feel tense and tight. You may experience sudden spasms of pain without reason. These frequent episodes are due to your nervous system being oversensitive, like a volume dial for pain being turned up too high. Breathing exercises, such as the 7/11 method (breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11, both through the nose), will calm down the nervous system, and the muscles they supply, relaxing tense muscles and preventing sudden spasms of back pain.
6 Exercise regularly. The back is designed to move and bend and twist in variety of ways. Protecting your back from these movements might seem like the logical thing to do at first. But continuing to protect your back from exercise in the medium to longer term will prevent recovery. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do – swimming, cycling, walking the dog, joining a gym class or doing yoga are all excellent types of exercise. But make sure it’s something you enjoy doing, otherwise you are less likely to continue with it in the long term.
7 Involve your family and friends in your recovery. Those close to you want to do the best for you when you are suffering with back pain. Sometimes they can be over-protective and do everything for you. Whilst this is well intentioned, it can prevent you from trying things out that may promote recovery. Remember the back likes all types of movement, so tell those close to you that it’s safe to get going, and encourage them to help you work towards recovery in function.
8 Manage the stressors in your life. Ongoing unresolved distress in your life will wind up your body’s fight and flight system, raising tension in your back muscles which is likely to cause more frequent flare-ups. Some of your daily stressors within your home or work life can be difficult to keep on top of but if you can find ways to manage these better, you will find that your back will be much less troublesome.
9 Focus on a structured plan to help you sleep better. Refreshing sleep is essential for our general health and well-being. Avoiding using technology including computers, mobile phones and television; having a bedtime routine leading up to sleep and calming your mind through 7/11 breathing are all simple strategies you can use to make refreshing sleep more likely. Whilst they may not work immediately, persevere with them each evening.
10 Be prepared for some bumps along the road to recovery. Applying these new rules will make a difference but it probably won’t cure your back pain forever. So having a plan for when things go wrong with your back is really helpful. Keep this close at hand because when flare-ups happen it can feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to believe that recovery can happen.