Amazingly about 70-80% of the population is likely to suffer from lower back pain at some time in their lives, which makes it one of the most common health problems in the country.
Many patients say it’s a bit like joining a secret club they didn’t know existed. As soon as they mention the subject people that they wouldn’t have expected start telling them their own back pain story. One thing to be cautious about though is the differing advice people will give you. There are many different types of back problem but most of them give very similar pain. This means that what worked for your friend or nieghbour won’t necessarily work for you and may even make your symptoms worse.
So what should you do if you get back pain? Well seeing a health professional is usually a good idea, but when should you go? People vary greatly in how much pain they will put up with, but if severe pain is present or mild pain persists for more than a few days then it’s probably a good idea to see someone.
There are a number of reasons why it’s easier to treat someone in the early stages of a problem. Firstly they usually haven’t developed too many compensatory problems and investigating the details of an injury is usually easier when things are fresh in the mind. Secondly the pain itself can change over a period of time. In as little as six weeks persistent pain signals from the back can start to stimulate a different part of the brain usually reserved for serious or severe pain signals. This pain can develop a ‘life of its own’ even after the original injury has healed! Thirdly pain signals from the back interrupt the normal feedback signals from the ligaments in the spine. Because your brain is then focused on pain instead of coordinating movements in the spine you can be left more vulnerable to further injury.
Studies have shown that conservative physical treatment (such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy) can be effective at relieving symptoms in the important early stages of low back pain. More importantly of course is that with proper diagnosis and management it may also help to address any underlying problems that led to the pain in the first place.
For more information on osteopathy visit our Australian Osteopathic Association feature page.
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