Statistically speaking, if you have a back, you are going to have back problems at some time in your life. Back problems can be fleeting and quickly forgotten, or they can set up residence like an unwelcome relative who uses up all your time and attention.
- If I stop moving I will get better.
In the short term, you may want to rest up after a back injury. Catching up on your daytime TV with your favorite OTC analgesic and a hot pad is a good strategy for 1 or 2 days. After that, if you are still in bed, your back muscles start to get weaker which tends to make the your condition worse. Also, for some types of back problems, sitting up in bed may not be the best position to decrease your symptoms and may in fact be slowing your recovery.
- If I exercise I will get worse.
Your first instinct may be that if your back is hurting you should stop all types of activities and withdraw from life like a hermit. The opposite is true, bodies are supposed to move and moving around helps reduce symptoms. While you are not expected to run a 5K or hit the weights, some light or modified exercise, like walking, can ease discomfort.
Normal movement facilitates healing and too little activity causes muscle atrophy and spinal instability. This can make things worse than they already are. Unless your injury needs surgery, you need to get moving.
- My x-ray is abnormal so I will always have back problems
One of the first or second things that happens when you go to the doctor for your back, is an x-ray of the lumbar spine. This can be very helpful to rule out anything serious like a fracture or a lost pair of scissors.
When your doctor looks at the X-ray, he or she is looking for structural features that may be causing symptoms such as a reduced space between vertebrae, arthritis in the facet joints and scoliosis among other things. The problem with x-rays is that many of these features can exist in a back that is not acutely painful. So where your x ray may yield useful information, it may not reveal the exact reason for your current condition.
As we go though life, degenerative changes occur in the spine that are visible on x-ray but may not cause undue pain or stiffness in day to day activities. So if you have something on your x ray that your doctor terms “irreversible” or “degenerative” do not fear, you may have had that feature prior to your current injury. In most cases, it is possible to make a full recovery from a back episode and still have “degenerative” or “irreversible” features visible on your x-ray or MRI.
- I don’t have time to get treatment.
It’s all about priorities. The best treatment for non-operative back problems is Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy typically takes 2 or 3 one hour sessions a week which, for many of us, is less time than we spend on Facebook daily.
Plus, once you have had one back injury, the likelihood you will have another goes up. As the old saying goes: “if you don’t have time to fix it now, when will you have time to fix it later”. This “pay now or pay later” scenario also works for spinal health.
A little time invested on the front end restores normal movement and strength to save you a lot of misery on the back end (literally).
- All treatments have side effects:
True, some treatments such as opioids, NSAIDs and muscle relaxers do have side effects. These side effects may be tolerable and be a good trade off considering the relief they provide.
However, side effects are sometimes unwelcome. For example, if the label advises you to not drive or operate machinery on these meds, and you really need to drive or operate machinery every day, that might be a problem.
I always tell my patients that PT also has side effects, but they are all good: less pain, more flexibility, bigger muscles, weight loss, the list goes on. In Physical Therapy the side effects are actually bonuses. In short, if you choose PT to treat your back problem or as one component of your treatment plan, you can’t lose.
Where to Start:
A good place to begin your journey back to health is at Jones Physical Therapy. Our Licensed Physical Therapists at our locations in Madisonville LA and Hammond LA, are happy to sit down and talk with you about your back problem, then discuss a plan of action to get you back to optimal health. If yours is a new injury or a long standing problem, we can help. This consultative service is offered at no charge.