Chiropractic adjustments, as well as therapies such as sports massage, sports therapy and acupuncture can be fantastic approaches for dealing with existing pain. These same approaches can also be a real boost to your ability to avoid further problems going forward – however, we’ll tell you a secret. NONE of these approaches can help you avoid future pain unless you do one simple thing! This week, we look at the importance of movement.
An old fashioned approach to recovery.
For many years, the recommended approach to back pain was to lay still, lay flat, and avoid any stress to the spine. On the face of it, this approach seems to make sense – and immediately after an injury, it does – but once you have seen a professional, been evaluated and prescribed a course of treatment, the way that you use, protect and care for your spine day-to-day also needs to change. As a chiropractic clinic, we take a longer-term view of pain and injury – simply getting rid of acute pain and making no changes to lifestyle (or even worse, restricting your lifestyle to avoid ongoing pain) is not something we consider a win, or even close to a solution.
Perhaps an even worse outcome is long term reliance on medication, not to treat, but simply to cover up pain. In some cases, short term painkiller use might be necessary – there’s no award for suffering and we wouldn’t discourage you from taking sensible short term measures until you can see a professional. That being said, it is questionable as to whether many over the counter drugs are even effective for most spinal pain – paracetamol is a common an easily available choice for treating all kinds of pain – especially spinal pain, but research suggests it isn’t particularly effective at doing this. A recent systematic review including three randomised controlled trials focused on spinal pain and concluded that there was high-quality evidence that paracetamol was no more effective than placebo in this instance.
More powerful, opioid-based medications certainly can reduce spinal pain – but these come with a raft of side effects and long term harms, which we’ve discussed here before.
So if medication and “bed rest” aren’t the way to go – what is?
The key to healing is movement!
Movement is one of the best ways to recover from back pain. This is true as part of your initial recovery, as well as (perhaps more importantly) going forward, to prevent an injury from reoccurring. At first glance (especially when you’re suffering!) moving more might seem counterintuitive – and again, when an initial injury occurs, it is sensible to tread carefully and see a professional – but once the nature of your issue has been uncovered, it’s time to recognise that the spine and the “back” as a whole is an interconnected organism, whose primary function is to support movement.
During recovery, specifically prescribed simple home exercises of the kind we provide at Complete Chiropractic can allow you to ease your body back into fluid movement, without risk or re-injury. Longer-term, however, it’s critical that we recognise that it’s often a lack of daily movement (or chronic postural changes arising therefrom) that cause back pain (or at least create the circumstances which lead to an injury) in the first place.
Get moving to prevent pain
Regular movement helps to keep the spine working, flexible and healthy – if you take yourself out of the mindset of pain for just a second and consider the back not as a source of suffering, but rather as a powerful centre of strength, it’s easier to see the need to train, support and care for it. If you want to build bigger biceps, you hit the gym and perform some curls – if you want to strengthen your back, you need safe, regular and targeted exercise designed to promote that outcome.
Does this mean you need to schedule a weekly back workout? Not at all – in fact, a series of simple exercises prescribed by your chiropractor, coupled with active, conscious effort to maintain good posture throughout regular daily movement is all you need.
Broadly speaking, there are three different types of body movement: segmental, regional, and whole body. Segmental motion occurs between the individual joints of your body, regional movement occurs in a body region such as your neck, mid-back, or low back and whole-body movement is characterised by the whole-body actions we typically think of as “exercise.”
All three types are essential and work together to keep your spine and musculoskeletal system healthy and functioning at its best – include all three in your daily life, and you can expect to build strength and flexibility in the spine.
So how can you practically achieve this? :
- Segmental Movement: Moving the individual joints of your body is what chiropractors are specifically trained to do. Proper segmental movement can help reduce pain, improve your range of motion, and influence your central nervous system. Performing regular exercises prescribed by your chiropractor can also help to safely “unload” the spine on days when you aren’t able to get an adjustment.
- Regional Movement: Dynamic stretching with regional range of motion exercises can reduce low back stiffness and promote healthy motion – we take this approach further with chiropractic biophysics, and can often provide patients with inexpensive home equipment which can allow them to achieve a safe and effective stretch for the spine every day, with very little effort. If you’re already into regular stretching or yoga, these approaches are also ideal to meet this need.
- Whole Body Exercise: daily exercise can help your brain and body feel better as well as improve your rest and recovery at night – you don’t need to be exhausting yourself each day to see a benefit, but you DO need to avoid spending 8-10 hours sat completley still at a desk. Small actions like taking regular breaks, using the stairs or walking or biking to work pair very well with shorter “exercise” sessions, for those who don’t especially enjoy working out or playing sports to meet this need.
Need help recovering from back pain?
An important point to keep in mind is that the foundation of all movement is segmental movement – If your joints aren’t moving correctly, the rest of your body isn’t moving correctly – this could either be the result of pain or a cause of pain, and it’s something you should address. Moving may be the last thing you want to do if you’re struggling with back pain, but research has repeatedly shown that movement and exercise are two of the best ways to find relief from back pain.
If back pain, stiffness or just difficulty moving as well as you used to are an issue in your life, get in touch today – our team will be happy to provide you with a complete movement assessment and personalised exercise plan to help you get (and stay) well for years to come!
 Machado GC, Maher CG, Ferreira PH, et al. Efficacy and safety of paracetamol for spinal pain and osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis
 5 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Harvard Health Publishing. 2016.
 5 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Harvard Health Publishing. 2016.