Back pain was believed to be a self limiting condition for the majority of individuals, meaning that the nature of back pain is that it would "run its course" and eventually pain would go away on its own. Current research has demonstrated that this understanding of back pain is flawed; yet many clinicians still hold this belief.
In fact, 85% of people with a single episode of low back pain will likely experience future recurrences
and 2-8% of those individuals will develop chronic back pain.
Chronic pain accounts for 75% of all healthcare costs related to low back pain
, is second only to the common cold in missed days from work, and is the number one reason for workmen compensation claims.
Considering the burden chronic back pain places on healthcare resources, patient management appears to be an issue in need of addressing appropriately as many patients find it difficult to find effective treatment.
Low Back Treatments That Don't Help
Now many experts are questioning the model in which back pain is treated as a growing body of research suggests many common back pain ‘cures’ just don’t work. These include:
- TENS machines
- Strong opium-type painkillers, such as diamorphine
- Spinal injections
- Spinal fusion
- Disc replacement
Prescribing drugs or cutting people open when you don't know what's causing the pain is very unlikely to be successful in the long term. Surgery should only be used as a very last resort. There is a significant lack of efficacy for many treatments, but the deeper issue here seems to be that many healthcare providers have difficulty in accurately identifying the cause of ‘non-specific low back pain’.
Top spine expert, Professor Stuart McGill is the world’s leading spinal biomechanics researcher and has identified common reasons for back pain and the importance of exercise as an intervention for effective treatment.
In Dr. McGill's opinion, based on over 30 years of research, every case of back pain has a cause and the reason many treatments are ineffective is because they are used on a one-size fits-all approach, rarely targeting the underlying problem.
There are many possible causes for back pain, but you must first find the positions and stresses that trigger pain. As Dr. McGill says, finding these positions and stressors allows the provider to formulate a precise diagnosis and a roadmap to recovery. This roadmap is guided exercises that can correct the harmful patterns and build a stable, firm spine.
The importance of a firm spine can come as a surprise to many, as the common perception is that your back must be flexible in order to be healthy and pain-free.
The spine must be firm and have strong muscles surrounding it to help transmit forces from the legs and the shoulders while minimizing the stress on the spine. When the muscles of the spine aren’t strong enough, micro-movements can occur that eventually can sensitize the spine and lead to a painful back.
If you have some movements, which are comfortable to build on, this opens the door to conservative management and recovery through guided exercise
However, recommendation of exercise without a clear understanding of movement intolerances and muscles that must be strengthened can also be harmful
Guided Exercise: The #1 Intervention for Low Back Pain
Exercise is essential both to protect and repair your back, but simply hitting the gym or doing Pilates or yoga without knowing the movement patterns that are generating your pain or the ones that will protect and build a pain-free back, has little chance of being effective.
Thanks to exercises specifically targeted at a patient’s problems, we are able to help educate them on proper posture and movement so they do not put damaging load on their spine. The guided exercise model is truly about identifying a patient's underlying back pain generators and educating them on not only how they can get out pain, but also what they can do to keep it from returning.
When you consider that 85% of individuals who have low back pain will experience future recurrences, there must be a priority placed on educating patient's about proper posture, movement, and exercises that build a firm, strong spine. Guided exercises are showing clear efficacy for use in patients with low back pain and should be a staple in their treatment plan.
If you are suffering from low back pain, whatever the cause, consider Gallagher Performance for your evaluation and treatment. Our goal is to relieve your pain while teaching you what you can do to keep the pain from returning.
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