Let me help you get to know your spinal Anatomy and its relationship to pain
The spine is made up of 33 bony segments called vertebrae. The section of the neck is called the cervical spine, the mid-section from which your ribs are attached to is called your thoracic spine and your lower back is called your lumbar spine. Each vertebra is connected to the neck by facet joints, and between each vertebra is a disc made of a tough, flexible cartilage that acts as a shock absorber.
The function of the spine is to hold the body upright and to protect the spinal cord. Travelling from the spinal cord are peripheral spinal nerves which supply sensation and power to your muscles. The cervical spine supplies the arms, and the lumbar spine supplies the legs. The big sciatic nerve which travels from the lower levels of your lumbar spine and down the legs is the nerve responsible for sciatica, a painful condition which causes pain down the legs.
The majority of back pain can be described as non-specific, where there may be an inflammatory cause or muscular imbalance causing pain, rather than damage or injury to any structures. These issues do not pick up on MRI and it is more an issue that can be identified via a thorough examination from your Physiotherapist. These non-specific issues often have a solution, and your Physiotherapist may opt for some hands-on physiotherapy, but this should always be supplemented with exercise for back pain. If your Physiotherapist is suspicious of something more serious, they can recommend a scan- MRI’s are helpful in these cases in which a structural abnormality such as a disc bulge or fracture is suspected. A thorough clinical assessment is very sensitive at distinguishing between these two different types of lower back pain, and if no damage is suspected, MRI is not necessary.
Dr Mary O’Keefe, who has a PHD in back pain has been attempting to change the way we look at lower back pain in society. Her facts about exercise and back pain are as follows:
Exercise is helpful for lower back pain
Rest is the opposite – unhelpful. The best thing you can do is gently try to get back to moving and to normal activities.
Exercise can prevent recurrence of back pain
Moving with confidence and without fear is important for back pain
Exercising in a relaxed manner is important. If you are fearful and tense your back will get stiff which will make your pain worse.
Do something you enjoy for exercise- if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t see as much benefit.
Feeling sore after exercise does not indicate damage to you body
Exercising regularly is a must. The government’s suggested amount is 5x30 minutes per weel (cardiovascular and strength training
No drug or painkiller is as effective as exercise in reducing pain, but you must be working at an appropriate level of exercise. Even the strongest painkillers do not have much of an effect on lower back pain. Those with chronic lower back pain can tell you that the painkillers their GP’s prescribe often don’t do much to help their pain.
Not sure where to start, fed up of taking painkillers or feel like exercise isn’t possible due to your pain? Ask your physiotherapist about the best way to start. They may need to provide some treatment to reduce your pain enough to start this process.
Click >here to book a session. We can often help improve pain from the very first session.