Lockdown Back Pain

May 19, 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown we have seen an increasing number of complaints from our patients with symptoms of low back pain and stiffness. It would seem that the combination of more people working from home, sitting in chairs for longer, (that are often not designed for long sitting office type work), reducing their daily step count and not exercising as they once were has been the perfect storm for the onset of low back pain. So what is low back pain, and more importantly what can you do to help it?

What is low back pain?

Generally speaking the low back is a very strong, and sturdy structure. Despite this injuries can happen from either: direct trauma such as a fall or overloading the muscles when lifting something heavy; from a repetitive nature such as slouching in a chair day in and day out; or from natural degenerative changes. Most low back pain that we see in our clinics is from injury to the muscles of the lower back, however we also see injury to the ligaments and to the intervertebral joints and discs of the spine as well. 

When you injure your lower back the body reacts by starting an inflammatory healing process which is often very painful. You can experience muscle spams and sometimes referred pain down into the buttock and the back of the legs. The specific structure injured will determine how severe the pain is, where it travels and how long the recovery process will take. For instance an injury to muscle can recover in weeks, whereas a disc injury can be several months. 

How common is low back pain?

We know that low back pain is a common cause of disability in people under 50 years of age. Research has told us that in any given year 10-15% of the adult population can suffer from low back pain.

Does it go away?

The good news is that over 90% of people struggling with low back pain go on to make a full recovery without any long lasting issues. However having said that we also know that recurrences of low back pain can be common, and in some cases this leads to chronic low back pain where essentially people end up living with pain in their life. Left unmanaged this chronic pain issue can often negatively impact a persons mind set, and in some cases even be a cause depression.

Interestingly we also know that there are several factors that have been found to increase the risk of developing disabling chronic low back pain including poor pain coping behaviours, poor general health status, and psychiatric conditions. So if you are injured it’s very important to keep a positive and open mindset.

What are the take home points with low back pain?

  • The back is both strong and durable
  • Most injuries happen to the muscles of the back
  • It is quite common to experience low back pain
  • Most low back pain will recover without any long lasting issues
  • In some cases people will experience relapse-remitting symptoms of low back pain
  • If you have low back pain try to keep a positive open mind set

What do I do if I have a sore back?

Before we start on this lets outline that if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in conjunction with your back pain then you should contact NHS 24 or your GP for medical advice;

  • numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
  • difficulty peeing
  • loss of bladder or bowel control – peeing or pooing yourself
  • chest pain
  • a high temperature
  • unintentional weight loss
  • a swelling or a deformity in your back
  • the pain does not improve after resting or is worse at night 
  • it started after a serious accident, such as after a car accident
  • the pain is so bad you’re having problems sleeping
  • pain is made worse when sneezing, coughing or pooing

Assuming that you don’t have any of the above symptoms then the best form of management is to follow the advice below;

  1. Stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities as best you can with modifications as needed.
  2. Use cold compression packs for 10 minutes at a time to decrease your pain and reduce the inflammation.
  3. Try exercises and stretches for back pain like the ones in this blog, and perform other more gentle activities such as walking, swimming, and yoga. 
  4. If your pain is stopping you from performing your physio exercises then speak to your pharmacist about taking paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen.

Exercises for low back pain

The best way to treat a low back injury is to prevent it from getting hurt in the first place! Nevertheless from time to time even with the best prevention strategies people get hurt. Take our very own Mark for instance who since the lock down has been struggling with a sore back from spending more time sitting performing administrative jobs and doing some DIY around his house. Here is his account of his low back pain and what his routine is to help manage his symptoms. 

Focus on the basics

We hope that you have found this blog helpful. Try the exercises in Marks routine and then drop us a message on any of our social media platforms to let us know how you got on.

If you are struggling with a sore back remember to stay positive, and focus on the basics of good nutrition, having quality sleep, drinking plenty of water, getting outside and having regular exercise such as walking. 

If you are in pain, and have an issue that isn’t responding to self management you can still be assessed by one of our physiotherapists remotely. So book yourself in for a video appointment here!

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