Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back Pain - Health Tips

What does pain tell you? Is all pain the same? Below you can find more information on what pain is. Understanding back pain is the first step towards taking control of back pain.
Pain as a warning signal or not?
If you, accidentally, cut your finger with a knife, you experience pain. This pain signal is triggered in the cells of the tissue in your finger that are being damaged by the sharp knife. Although unpleasant, the pain is actually a useful response from your body since it alerts you that your finger is damaged and you need to take action to prevent further damage and/or ensure recovery from the damage. This is called acute pain. Similarly, when you sprain a muscle in your back, you will feel a sudden jolt of pain. Again this pain signal warns you need to take action in order to recover or prevent further damage.
However, persistent back pain is very different from the above examples. Persistent pain no longer acts as a warning signal and it does not refer to any tissue damage. The warning system goes into overdrive and sends out repeated pain signals, which are not needed or are out of proportion. The pain signals in persistent pain, also called chronic pain, no longer serve a useful purpose. But nevertheless you experience pain and it is virtually impossible to distinguish the useful pain signals from the disruptive pain signals. However knowing that persistent pain is often not a warning signal, means that you can respond differently to the pain. While you may think that rest is best when experiencing pain, for persistent back pain it is actually much better to stay active. Knowing that your pain does not mean that any structures in your back have been seriously damaged can take away some of the concerns you may have about using your back while in pain.

Definition of pain
Pain is not only a physical response; your mind also plays an important role in how you perceive pain. One of the world's leading organisations in the area of pain research (the International Association for the Study of Pain, IASP) has defined pain as: ‘An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage’. In this definition you can see that pain is not only a signal that your body sends out in response to a certain trigger (a sensory experience) but also an emotional experience. In other words, how your mind responds to pain is an important aspect of how you perceive pain.
You may have heard of people overcoming great pain when their mind was focused on something else. This is a great example of how the mind or your emotions can influence your pain experience. Secondly the definition of the IASP also shows that pain could be, but is not necessarily associated with tissue damage. This refers to the difference, explained above, between acute pain and persistent or chronic pain.
Why self help?
The only person that lives with your back pain is yourself. Healthcare professionals and other practitioners can be very helpful in providing treatments and giving information and tips, but these people cannot be at your side 24 hours a day. This is where self-help techniques can play a big role. Many healthcare professionals, practitioners, or products, can help you with applying self help techniques. The list below contains some techniques that you may want to try.
Staying active
The best way of coping with back pain and preventing the pain from getting worse is to stay active. This may sound strange as staying active and moving around when you have back pain may be difficult. However, staying active or perhaps even increasing your levels of activity, prevents your body from de-conditioning. There is no need to start training for a marathon to achieve this, small changes in your daily activities will get you the benefits. Walk to the shops instead of taking the car, go for a swim in the local pool, take a nice long walk in the park, do some stretches when you wake up in the morning. All these simple measures can make a difference to your activity pattern and positively influence your back pain.
Pacing yourself
Back pain often comes and goes; you will have good and bad days. When you are having a good day (or a ‘least bad’ day) you may feel like doing a lot of things, from cleaning the house to doing the weekly shopping, from spending some more time at work to tidying up the garden. You may feel pressured to get all this work done before your pain increases. There is a chance you will over-do it and this may result in your having to take time off to recover from your increased back pain.
To avoid this, you may better off trying to pace yourself. Try to spread your workload over a longer period of time. The chances are that by doing so you can lengthen the time that you can control your pain and have fewer flare-ups.
Prioritising and planning
Be clear about things that you have to do and try to plan them in advance. However, at the same time, allow for some flexibility because other things can get in the way. If you are clear about your priorities for the day, for the week or for the next time period, you will feel much more relaxed once you have achieved them. Planning also links in with pacing; plan your day carefully and try to avoid overdoing it and paying the price.
Set realistic goals
Be realistic about what you can achieve and set yourself a goal. You can set goals for the day, for the week or for a longer period of time. If you are not realistic about what you can achieve, you will get frustrated about not achieving your goals. You may find that when your back pain changes, you have to re-set your goals.
Relaxation techniques
Find ways of relaxing. This may be special relaxation exercises or just finding an activity that you enjoy and allows you to relax, such as reading a book, listening to music, meeting friends, meditation, walking, etc. Everyone needs to unwind once in a while and do not let back pain get in the way of your relaxing moments.
Although some people with back pain may fear exercise, exercise is actually an important element of managing back pain. Regular exercise can decrease pain and discomfort, strengthen muscles and make you feel good. Find some exercises that you enjoy and that you feel are beneficial to you. Your health provider or exercise professional may be able to advise you on what exercise you can try. Remember that you may feel some discomfort after you have been exercising muscles that are unfit or under-used. This should disappear within a day or two and you should feel less discomfort once your body gets used to the exercises.
Pain diary
Back pain often comes and goes and you will have periods of fairly minimum pain and periods of flare-ups. If you maintain a pain diary in which you keep a record of when you experience pain and what you had been doing, you may start to see a pattern. This will allow you to identify activities or circumstances that result in increased pain and you can then find other ways of doing these activities to avoid the pain increases.
Other resources
In addition to the above tips and techniques, you may want to contact your local self-help group, consult with a healthcare professional, or try one of the many products and services available to people with back pain.

No comments:

Post a Comment