Many of you reading this have suffered from (or are currently suffering from) low back pain. In fact, low back pain is so common, I usually liken it to the common cold. in other words, most people who have had low back pain will likely get a minor recurrence each year, just like we usually get the common cold each year. Knowing that many people will have low back pain each year is pretty easy to assume and understand. What’s harder, however, is knowing how to proceed if you do in fact get a new episode of low back pain. In this article, I will try to help you understand the answer to the question “should I take time off, rest, or stay active?”
We’ve all been told to “take it easy” when we injure or hurt ourselves. This is pretty intuitive advice and definitely well-intended. Where we see a problem, however, is when this advice gets confused and mistaken for “rest” (aka do nothing). In fact, many people still adhere to the old advice of R-I-C-E (rest-ice-compression-elevation) in the presence of a new injury or pain. I’ll be the first admit that R-I-C-E is definitely an outdated concept, especially in the case of low back pain. In fact, much of the latest research in the treatment of low back pain encourages education and activity.
What is “education” about low back pain? Well, we use education to help people understand that low back pain is common (just like the common cold). Additionally, education may involve reassurance that nothing “serious” is causing their pain or explaining that imaging findings do not always correlate to pain (i.e. a disc bulge is often times incidental – meaning, it’s just there but may not be causing the pain). Other forms of education may include talking about the natural history of low back pain (such as the fact that it often improves on it’s own after a couple of weeks). Education is such a key and integral part to low back pain management that it’s actually recommended as a “first line” treatment. In other words, if you have low back pain and feel you need care, your initial care should include a conversation with a healthcare professional who works with patients suffering from low back pain.
In addition to education, physical activity is highly recommended in the presence of low back pain. If you’ve been a patient at Total Body Rehab, you have probably heard me yelling “motion is the lotion” across the clinic. While this usually gives a good laugh to the whole crew, it’s also very true. In the presence of low back pain, people should keep moving. Unfortunately, resting too much and/or withdrawing from enjoyable activities leads to a viscous cycle of more inactivity and believe it or not – more pain.
At Total Body Rehab, we understand the latest research in the management of low back pain and practice this daily. A patient suffering from low back pain at Total Body Rehab will leave with a much better understanding of their pain and a concrete plan to resolve the pain and create a new level of preparedness to minimize recurrence. However, as I stated previously, low back pain recurrence is common, like the cold. So while we cannot promise you will not have back pain again, we can equip you with the knowledge, understanding and tools to best manage your pain in the event you do have a “flare up” or recurrence.
If you’re currently suffering from low back pain, or have had multiple flare ups over the years, we would love to hear from you. We are happy to answer your questions or offer you a free discovery session if you’re unsure about physical therapy. If you would like to know more, give us a call at 480-726-1818. We hope to hear from you soon!