Back pain can be just uncomfortable or absolutely agonising. When you get it, worrying about how to deal with it and fear of making it worse can be almost as difficult as dealing with the pain.
SO WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE ACTION AND WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
?Urgent symptoms: if you experience any of the following symptoms in association with a back injury or back pain you should seek emergency medical assistance: numbness of the testes, penis, labia or anus; loss of bladder or bowel control (leakage or constipation), erectile dysfunction.
If you don’t have these symptoms and the pain is not unmanageable….
? Just started….. above all, don’t worry. You almost certainly will be fine within the next week or two. Stay as active as you can, but don’t overdo it. Take some anti-inflammatories and painkillers to help you. Use ice (not heat as inflammation makes the joint swell) and get the rest if you can; everything is worse when you’re tired!
?Started within last two weeks….maybe have a word with an acupuncturist or deep tissue massage therapist if you’re still in pain now. You’re probably stuck in a muscle spasm/joint injury cycle. It’s the body’s way of protecting you but it can mean that trouble goes on for a bit longer than necessary. It also usually means there is possibly some old injury or scar tissue that is perpetuating the issue for longer than normal.
?Started within the last six weeks…if it’s getting better, but slowly: don’t worry! You most likely did some damage to a ligament or a tendon and they take longer to heal and can be very painful. Remain active, try to ignore it, unless you have pain travelling down your leg or arms, experience numbness or tingling anywhere, in which case you need to get an expert opinion. If it’s getting worse you should speak to a chartered physiotherapist or your GP and possibly look into some tests. If you feel ill or feverish, or are experiencing issues with your bowel or bladder: go to your GP immediately, if you can’t get in: go to A&E. Yes, really.
?Started over six months ago… if it’s slowly getting better, and you are experiencing the occasional relapses (week by week things are getting better) then don’t worry! You probably damaged a disc. Contrary to popular myth, they don’t always need surgery, in fact research shows they usually don’t, but they are slow to heal because they don’t have the best blood-supply. Get a specialist opinion though, because there may be things you can do to accelerate matters and a healthy life-style, strong back and remaining active are some key ingredients!
If this isn’t your first rodeo with disc issues or things are not getting any better: it’s time to speak to the professionals. Disc problems, as a rule, don’t just occur, and whilst you don’t need to worry about surgery, it is likely that there are contributing factors if they keep happening. If you developed symptoms down your leg or arm, pain below the knee or into the hand: don’t wait. Just don’t. The longer a nerve is compressed, the longer it will take for the nerve to recover and that is the most painful bit of these. Non-surgical treatment is very effective and usually resolves most symptoms within 6 to 8 weeks.
If you would like some more advice on what the best next steps are for you please message us and we will put you in touch with the best person in our team to help you.
**** The above is general guidance and of course cannot replace the professional opinion or advice of a doctor or expert following a consultation and examination. If you are really concerned about your symptoms, if they have having a significant effect on your life, or you have additional symptoms you should always consult a suitably-qualified health professional ***
We are often asked by our new patients ‘why has nobody else told me this before?’ Why has nobody else found this, got to the bottom of this problem, and given me such a clear recommendation to deal with it.
Many of our new patients have a long history of back pain, headaches, or recurring injuries. Some have been struggling with these types of problems for ten or twenty years or more. They have – they tell us – tried everything. Chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncture, yoga, physio, different types of pain-killers. Some help a bit, some not at all. But none of them have got to the bottom of the problem for a sustained period or for good. Check out a social media support group for people with chronic back pain and you will how much people suffer and how many different strategies they try – and often fail with.
Many of our patients have had surgery before they come to us. Multiple surgeries even. And yet they are still in pain; still unable to enjoy the ‘normal’ things in life that many of us take for granted. Like sleep. Air travel. Picking up a grandchild. Even tying a shoelace.
How can it be that these patients who have consulted so many doctors and therapists over the years, can walk into our clinic to be asked questions that they’ve never been asked before, assessed in ways they’ve never been assessed before, and given diagnoses and successful treatment protocols that they’ve never been given before?
Well, there are a few reasons, but here we’ll talk about one.
Firstly, like all types of expertise, as people become more ‘expert’ in healthcare or medicine they often tend to become more specialised. You start training as a doctor, then you specialise, and eventually you become a consultant in quite a specific area of medicine – knees perhaps, or wrists. While expertise can be a great thing it can also lead to a narrowing of focus and a reduced tendency to think laterally. If your primary tool is a hammer, then you will tend to see a lot of problems as nails.
However, most chronic musculoskeletal problems – like back pain, hip pain, knee pain (or all 3 together if you’re really unlucky) which haven’t been resolved by one tool or technique – for example physiotherapy – aren’t caused by just one thing and won’t be solved by just one thing. Even the best physiotherapist in the world (or best chiropractor or best pain specialist) has a limited scope of expertise, skills, and tools in their toolkit. They may be able to help you – to an extent – but it’s only by having the right combination of expertises, skills and tools, that complex long-term problems can be resolved.
Our new patient assessments and consultations take at least an hour and often more. We take very detailed medical histories; carry out a whole range of physical, neurological and functional tests; speak to our patients at length; carry out a range of biometric tests (spinal scans, body composition scans) and more. Often patients are assessed by two or more clinicians in our team, with different expertises. Sometimes the patient’s condition is complex and it’s easy to understand why nobody has got to the bottom of it so far. But other times there is something frustratingly simple at the root of their long-history of suffering.
Why do we pick up on these things when so many other clinicians and therapists haven’t? Because we don’t just look at the place where the patient is experiencing pain, we look at the whole patient, through the eyes of different experts and we work together to build a full picture. Or, to put it another way – we see the whole elephant.