A lot of chronic back pain sufferers put up with the pain and are resigned to just get by in life. It's the equivalent of redlining the engine in 2nd gear with the handbrake on - you're trying hard to move forward but there's this problem that's constantly holding you back from showing up anywhere near your best.
The great thing is that back pain does not have to be a life sentence. Here are a few things you can start doing right now that can help you to relieve it.
1. Mindset is key
If you have a positive outlook about your situation, you have a much better chance of becoming pain-free than catastrophising your pain. Self-talk and thoughts like "I'm a broken mess” or "this is so bad it'll never get better," are self-fulfilling. Here is a key takeaway: pain is a signal for change. When you view it this way, you're empowered to control it, instead of it controlling you.
2. Movement is medicine
Developing a positive mindset to recover involves taking action. When you're doing what you can to find a solution, you're reinforcing hope, which is only helpful to your route out of back pain.
A huge part of action is movement. Evolutionarily speaking, the sole reason your brain exists is to navigate yourself through your environment. Pain is a way of signalling that your brain feels unsafe for you to move around in your environment. The good news is, it's a pattern that can be broken. If you spend most of your day sedentary, make time to move often: 2 minutes of movement every hour for 5 hours is way better than 10 minutes of movement after 5 hours of being sedentary. Frequency trumps volume. This builds a sense of safety into your nervous system, which can reduce pain over time.
Notice how the word 'stretch' hasn’t been mentioned here. Stretching, contrary to popular belief, is not a cure-all for tightness and pain, which is why movement is a much better goal. Controlled, deliberate, mindful movement teaches muscles how to position joints properly through all the different types of movements you make; stretching does not. So, use movements rather than stretches. Now of course, there is a lot of nuance regarding the appropriate use of stretches, but this is a useful heuristic to follow.
3. It's not just about your back
Back pain is not just a physical phenomenon, as highlighted by the first point on mindset. Your lifestyle - from nutrition, stress, sleep and other factors - plays a big role when you're a long-term sufferer.
Take stress as an example. We tolerate a lot of stress in our fast-paced city-based lifestyles, without realising the toll it takes. A previous client’s back pain would completely disappear while on holiday for two weeks, only to return when back in the City. This person's pain was not physical.
Pay close attention to your environment for a week so that you can start to notice triggers of stress. Stress is a load on your nervous system. Pain is modulated by the nervous system. Therefore, stress increases pain sensitivity. Improving stress resilience or decreasing stressors in life can create a buffer against the threshold for pain, which will reduce the amount of pain you experience. Your subjective experience of stress can be altered in real-time, too. This can be done by controlling your breathing. Take a deep breath in through the nose into your belly for the count of 5, and breathe out through the nose or mouth for the count of 10. This can be done for as little as 1-2 minutes to notice the difference.
Take a whole-body, holistic approach to your recovery out of back pain. If you need help figuring out exactly what you need to do to get out of pain once and for all, then reach out to arrange an initial consultation.
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