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Low-back pain and exercise.

Byline: Nigel Douglas

LOW-back pain is the most common complaint that we see in the Physiotherapy Clinic, and this is not surprising when you examine the statistics. Due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle as many as 80% of us will suffer at least one episode of low back pain during our lives.

Furthermore, at any one time it is estimated that as many as 35% of the population suffers from some kind of back pain.

However despite the fact that it is such a common problem, popular understanding about the nature of back pain can be poor.

The common belief is that back pain is the result of a structural injury or fault that needs to be corrected or allowed to heal to reduce pain and restore normal movement. Normal function should be avoided as it leads to further damage.

A couple of decades ago, the treatment approach to back pain was underpinned by this theory; people were advised to take bed rest to give the back time to "heal". Since this time the advice given has changed as our understanding of the causes of back pain has improved. It is true that scans often show structural damage to the spine in people with low back pain.

However they also reveal damage in up to 50% of people without back pain.

This means that often there is poor correlation between what is seen on a scan and the symptoms that the person reports.

Frequently the source of the back pain is not a result of damage to muscles, joints or ligaments, therefore early return to activity and exercise is unlikely to cause further damage and increased pain.

Clinical evidence shows us that those people who remain active and exercise regularly recover much more quickly.

The first and possibly most important aspect of Physiotherapy treatment is to reassure the person and encourage regular exercise and normal function as the pain allows.

It is important to realise that you should not simply stop exercising just because you have back pain, assuming that it will be made worse.

You should try to continue to remain active unless you find that your pain is aggravated.

If this is the case common sense dictates that you avoid this particular activity.

The good news is that regular general exercise that maintains strength and flexibility significantly reduces your risk of developing back pain.

However, if you do experience discomfort and have any concerns always seek medical advice quickly to put your mind at ease and set you on the road to recovery, sooner rather than later.

Nigel Douglas is the in-house physiotherapist at David Fairlamb Fitness and offers clinical pilates classes for low back pain.

He also specialises in occupational health and ergonomics for government and corporate clients.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 15, 2011
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