To understand why back pain recurs, we need to first look at why pain occurs to begin with and then how back pain physiotherapy can help. Back pain generally stems from some form of trauma or loading placed on your back, which may occur as a one off incident or be repetitive loading over time. Normally your core muscles will control your spine and allow an even distribution of load in the appropriate tissues. However, in an acute incident or with poor biomechanical control these muscles will not be able to withstand the load placed on them and trauma will occur. This trauma may cause damage to the tissues within your spine including the disc, joints and muscles.
It is essential to determine how and why the injury occurred
Once your back has been subjected to trauma the damage sustained may alter thestructure of your spine, including arthritis within the joints, disc disruption or bone alignment. Whilst physiotherapy will aim to alleviate your pain, regain full spinal movement and prevent further spinal damage it is important to determine why the injury occurred to understand the underlying cause and surrounding factors so that the same incident is not replicated and your back can be appropriately managed in the long term. The most important aspects of this management include altering your biomechanics to optimise your back function, modifying any activities which may aggravate your back, having optimal sleep postures and implementing an exercise routine including stretches and strengthening to maintain appropriate muscular stability and flexibility.
Biomechanical corrections are vital
Biomechanical corrections are vital to allow appropriate load distribution throughout the spinal column. The spinal column is very long, thin and has attachments to the other major structural components within your body. There are many different muscles which attach to it which can pull each individual spinal segment in a different direction. Those with back pain will often be overactive in particular muscle groups and under active in others, particularly their ‘core’ muscles. Your physiotherapist is likely to discuss these with you and may make alterations depending on your particular posture. It is important that following your treatment you continue to maintain these alterations. This may mean the need to continue stretches and specific strengthening exercises longer term to prevent reverting back to previous postures.
Activity modification is often required
Activity modification is often required to prevent re-injuring your back after your injury. Most people will have specific movements or activities which will cause them pain during the recovery from a back injury. It is important to take note of these activities and understand why they are painful so that once your pain is gone you are still aware of activities which are most likely to cause you pain in the future. You may need to modify these activities to prevent ongoing loading of your spine in a particular way, such as changing your work setup so you don’t have to lift from the ground repetitively or altering your desk setup so you can sit or stand during the day to prevent stiffness and slumped spinal postures. And it is important to remember, that whilst you don’t have pain currently, factors that contributed to a back injury in the first place are likely to be the contributing factors in recurrence of an injury.
Sleep postures are vital in the care of your back as such a large proportion of your life is spent in bed. It is important to maintain a neutral spinal position, where your spinal is relatively flat and straight, to prevent unnecessary stress being placed on particular spinal segments. You should make sure that your back has appropriate support from your mattress and pillow and that these are replaced and turned regularly to maintain their optimal shape.
Exercise is a necessary long term part of treatment
Exercise is likely to be given to you as part of your treatment for your back injury and should become part of your long term management. This may include a combination of stretches and strengthening exercises which are required to maintain your spinal alignment and prevent you from reverting back to your previous posture and biomechanics. Clinical Pilates or specific gym exercises are a great medium for this, particularly in a supervised environment where your physiotherapist is able to monitor your posture and positioning at all times to gain the most benefit. Hydrotherapy is also a fantastic way to complete your rehabilitation due to the reduced weight bearing placing less impact on the affected areas and allowing greater flexibity in the warm water. By completing these structured programs the resistance, intensity and difficulty can be regularly monitored and adjusted for people at all stages of rehabilitation.
Seek early intervention if pain recurs
If you feel like your back pain is recurring it is important to seek early intervention. Your physiotherapist will be able to analyse your symptoms and resolve your pain much more quickly if you return earlier and have less associated tissue involvement.