Your Back is Worth It

This post will cover a comprehensive view of back pain, how it affects people’s ability to perform well in their jobs, how I dealt with back pain, and other important insights and research materials about the nature of back pain and how it can be treated.

In this blog, I’ll talk about:

  • Workplace related injuries
  • My Back Pain Journey
  • The Importance Of Dealing With A Pain Problem As It Arises
  • What the research suggests for back pain
  • The Opportunity To Download My Free EBook Which Gives A Step By Step Guide To Some Of The Best Stretches That I Have Found To Elevate Lower back Pain In Clinical Practice

Workplace Related Injuries

Did you know that amongst all professions tradies experience the highest number of workplace related injuries, musculoskeletal conditions and other health and safety issues?

Low back pain is one of the most common causes of work-related disability worldwide with tradespeople considered as being a high-risk profession. In Australia, the figures have it that 10 tradesmen are injured at work daily, that equates to approximately 3,650 per year that potentially are off work and relying on workers compensation to get them through at any one time.

On top of this, can you imagine the mental anguish and financial stress this puts on the family uni? Statistics show that after six months of not working, 18% of workers sought out help for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, with that number rising to 30% after one year.

At some stage in their career, it is likely that tradesmen, be it bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and so on, will experience some back pain.

Research from the University of Sydney shows that this complaint makes up one-third of all long-term workplace injuries and costs Australia $4.8 billion a year for the 18-44 years old age group alone.

So how can you avoid being one of the numbers and avoid being in this situation of being unable to work due to a musculoskeletal injury for an extended period?

You rely on the health of your body to do your job. Ignoring aches and pains could result in much worse damage in the future.

Don’t ignore pain and take on the “she’ll be right attitude”. Be proactive and find a professional who can assess, diagnose and treat your condition before it becomes a serious problem.

My Back Pain Journey

Lower back pain has been part of my life for many years. While working in a furniture removal business during my early 20’s, I slipped and fell, landing on my lower back.

The pain intensified over the next few days to a level that made it impossible to do simple tasks, like putting on my shoes and pressing the clutch in the work truck. Not only was the pain debilitating, but it was also depressing. I did not know what to do or who to seek out to help me manage this injury.

I saw my GP, who sent me for an X-ray, which showed no abnormality. Diagnosis went no further than that X-Ray for the next 12 weeks until the pain became increasingly worse and started searing down my leg further.

I revisited the GP after a 12 week period and was eventually sent for an MRI scan, which revealed three herniated discs in my lower back.

While I was horrified at this information at least I have a diagnosis of what was causing my pain and that I wasn’t crazy.

By this stage I had been unable to work and was on leave being able to claim minimal compensation. Luckily I was still living at home with my parents. I can’t imagine if that happened to me now with a mortgage to pay and two kids to support the onus would be on my wife.

I did recover after an 18-month period of physical therapy. An orthopedic surgeon recommended that I don’t do manual labor for work as the pain would likely return.

To this day, I always wonder how things may have changed if as soon as the injury occurred, I received a correct diagnosis and an early course of treatment to remedy the problem. I am of the persuasion that I would have been much better off as the injury would not have had a chance to progress into the chronic pain problem it became.

The Importance of Dealing with Pain as it Arises

Every day in clinical practice I see patients presenting with acute and chronic injuries. A high percentage being low back pain. I have observed that those that have the quickest and best outcomes are those who get on top of a problem right away, diagnosed and given an effective course of treatment.

Pain is an unpleasant experience with the purpose of motivating you to do something about it. Usually to protect body parts that the brain thinks are damaged. If you feel pain, it means that your brain thinks the body is under threat, and that something has to be done about it. Your nervous system takes its job of creating pain seriously.

Thus, you can expect that when it thinks a part of the body is damaged, it will err on the side of giving you a clear incentive to do something about it. But yet, so often we often ignore this signal and continue with our everyday activities until a simple problem becomes more complex.

If you’re in a physically demanding job that requires lifting, bending or twisting, whether you know it or not, your spine is placed under stress every single day.

How to Deal with Back Pain

If you are suffering from back pain, the best advice I can give you is to seek out a practitioner who has a keen interest in effective solutions and uses a multi-modal approach to fixing it.

What I see on a daily basis is a person (maybe like you) presenting with unilateral or bilateral back pain. Often it is described as aching, sharp, dull, shooting, or burning, usually, with tenderness confined to the affected area. It is generally mechanical in nature (i.e., aggravated by activity and relieved with rest). Often present are low back muscle spasms or corded muscle bands (trigger points). With reduced flexibility with pain-restricted lumbar range of motion.

What does the research say?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. Here’s a short summary of their latest update on how best to manage lower back pain:

  1. Engage in a practitioner-patient relationship. To involve in shared decision-making about treatment options available for lower back pain.
  2. Promote many modes of treatment such as coupling Osteopathy with exercise intervention.
  3. Help with the use of self-management strategies to resolve lower back pain. As time in contact with a health care practitioner is only a tiny part of a person’s life.
  4. Immediate imaging is not recommended for acute LBP because it does not improve clinical outcomes (unless physical examination reveals otherwise).
  5. The prognosis in acute lower back pain is good. Recovery or improvement occurs in 80-90% of cases after 6-8 weeks. But in the first year following an acute episode, 60-86% of those affected experience a recurrence.
  6. Those receiving physical therapy in the acute phase (< 4 weeks) had lower medical service usage (e.g. lumbar surgery, lumbosacral injections, and physician office visits for LBP) over the following year compared to those who did not receive physical therapy until the chronic phase.
  7. Based on systematic reviews, there is evidence that supports physical therapy for pain management. Patient education to stay active during the acute phase of back pain.
  8. Manual therapy, which includes spinal manipulation, comprising up to nine sessions over a period of 12 weeks.

The manual therapies reviewed were spinal manipulation, spinal mobilisation and massage. Mobilisation and massage can be performed by a wide variety of practitioners, while manipulation is performed by chiropractors and osteopaths.

Follow the link below to read the full 28-page guideline

This post is for education purposes only. It cannot replicate or replace expert assessment and guidance from a health professional qualified to treat pain. If you want to go one step further, consult a professional with a special interest in active solutions for back pain.

Dr. Nathan Ingham (Osteopath)

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