Are you in ‘The Back Pain Tweaky Zone’
Updated: Jan 28
Many of my patients - on arrival mid acute horrid back spasm – often tell me; ‘It had been tweaking and aching a bit on and off for a few weeks’. But, guess what? They ignored it! Cue, two weeks later and reaching to feed the cat and suddenly spasm and pain is in full flow!
People are often surprised that the smallest movement has caused such pain. They regularly lament that they weren’t transferring breeze blocks, lifting cranes or running marathons. Simply picking up a cup of tea at the end of a long and stressful day and suddenly, bam, here is the best impression of an ironing board one can muster!
You Are Not Weak or Damaged
As long as there are no more serious symptoms, then a simple movement is extremely unlikely to have damaged a disc, trapped a nerve or anything else. Your back has simply said enough is enough. It’s calling a time out.
There Is Wisdom in All Sensation
If you have ever experienced this pain. Scroll back over the last few weeks. What is happening? Work stress? Lack of sleep? Recent move? Stuck in meetings and haven’t made it for a swim all week? Head cold? – you know the kind, you feel generally a bit rubbish but can still power through and function?
All these factors contribute to the stress and load that we put on our bodies. Throughout this process your back may start to tighten, tweak or give little warning nudges to you. These sensations are telling you something. It’s carrying a load that needs redistributing. Without email, it’s very difficult for your lovely hardworking spine to explain that you are tired. Or that you need a little exercise and some good sleep. So, it just grumbles at you and hopes that you will catch on. Then, one Tuesday night when you say the words ‘I’ll just finish this and then I’ll sit down’ and your back has other plans. A little movement, a lot of pain and a big dose of ‘I should have given in earlier’.
Be Grateful for the Pain in Making You Stop, and Spoil Yourself
When people are suffering in acute back pain I get a lot of requests for ‘clicking back in, massage it out’ as the hope for a miracle cure for the tension, spasm and run down ironing board that has just waddled into my room. Some are perturbed that I sit across the room and explain that whilst a massage is nice, head to a spa. Furthermore, this could make your back worse. Quite frankly it’s had enough poking.
I explain that spasm and pain is the result of pushing past the boundaries of good back housekeeping and that the best thing to do is appreciate your lovely spine for putting up with you in the first place and to start giving it what it needs. This is the lovely part. Rest, gently stretch, take nice walks, take pain relief if you can, use cold patches to help with pain and long hot baths to help relax. Spoil your body.
This Too Will Pass
Back pain is likely to happen to everyone, multiple times in a lifetime. It’s a bit like getting a cold, we don’t like it, but if we optimise our immune system, getting plenty of rest, exercise, treat is quickly when it strikes, then they pass and are over quickly.
Remember, if your back is in the tweaky zone, stop and pay attention! There is wisdom in pain, and it might just be telling you to get out for that jog or run that bubble bath! Save yourself the awkward waddle into the physio room asking for spinal forgiveness…and the argument with the cat.