Fighting the fear of back pain

With around half of all people experiencing back pain at some point in their lives, physiotherapists have become the experts in treating and preventing it.

Back pain can be caused by everyday tasks like gardening, DIY, carrying children or even bending down to put on your shoes - but that doesn’t stop it being miserable and worrying.

The good news is that in most people, lower back pain represents a simple back sprain and the pain can be settled by gentle and relaxed movements. The back is one of the strongest structures in your body and it’s very rare to do permanent damage.

It is important not to worry as our brains act as amplifiers to pain: the more you worry about the pain, the worse it can get. Instead, try small movements and gradually increase your level of activity until you get back to normal. Movements can be painful at first - as they would for an ankle sprain - but remember, pain doesn’t necessarily equal damage.

Physiotherapists are keen to bust the myths that have built up around back pain.

Myth: moving makes back pain worse

Fact: Moving, including twisting and bending, is essential. Stay active and gradually increase your level of activity.

Myth: avoid exercise, especially weight training

Fact: Research shows that continuing your regular activities and taking exercise can help you get better sooner. When appropriate, that could include using weights.

Myth: Pain means damage

Fact: Recent research challenges this view and modern physio helps people understand why they are in pain.

Myth: Scans show exactly what is wrong

Fact: Sometimes they do but not always. Scans can also show changes in the spine that aren’t related to pain, causing fear that influences behaviour, making problems worse.

If you think you need help with back pain, speak to one of our physiotherapists.