For many years, there has been conflicting advice about what to do when your back hurts. The “old-school” method of long term, complete rest has been thankfully put to bed, however sometimes, in the short term, rest has its place, and is needed to let your muscles have a chance to relax.
Many people’s beliefs fit into 2 categories – either we feel safer avoiding movement, and think pain equals damage, or the other side of the coin – “no pain, no gain” people who will endure as much pain as is possible for our muscles to adapt. If either of these sounds like you, it may help to read on!
99% of back pain is not caused by anything dangerous or sinister! We will not do ourselves any harm by keeping our backs strong and mobile. If your back feels stiff, aching, or you have ongoing mild to moderate pain without an acute injury, getting your back moving will help. General exercise that you are comfortable with and enjoy such as walking, swimming, a gym session, Pilates can all give you an endorphin release and help ease your pain. You may ache slightly afterwards, but it will help your back in the long run. (Always start new exercise gradually!)
If you have had an episode causing severe back pain (sometimes this can be caused by something as simple as lifting an object from the floor, a sneeze or a twist), where your back feels like it has gone into spasm and it is excruciatingly painful to walk or get out of bed – this is the time to rest. Don’t worry – it is unlikely that you have done your back any damage, but your muscles need time to relax and recover before you get moving again. This horrible pain will usually resolve within 3-5 days. It may be beneficial to speak to your GP about some tablets, use heat, and find the most comfortable position to rest in. Avoid things which aggravate your pain for a few days until it subsides, then gradually get yourself moving again.
To sum up, back pain is rarely dangerous, you won’t damage it by getting it moving, even if it is a bit sore. On the flip side, sudden, severe pain and spasm, although not damaged, will need a few days of rest before getting back to normal! If you are unsure what to do, or the best type of exercise for you, contact us for a physio assessment, treatment, Pilates class, or to sign up for our back class!