Argh Back Pain

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For the last 3 weeks i have been having back pain in my lower back that is now starting to spasm and hurts like mad when it grips me, i have tried the normal meds and the pain relieving gel applied to my back, which works for a time and then wears off. Hot baths work but only for a short period of time.

any advice please?

I have a doctors appointment again tonight (feel like a regular there now with one thing and another all happening at once)

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  • Posted

    Hi dawn57104,

    Sorry to hear you have back pain.  I had back problems for years, so I know what it's like.  IMHO you are doing the right thing getting it checked out by your doctor. It's probably nothing serious but best to make sure. Often the medical advice is to exercise. I find mind-body exercise like Tai Chi, Pilates, Yoga etc. is good to improve posture and helps with back pain.

    I would avoid long term use of pain relief meds.

    Hope you make some progress on this, would be interested to know what you try and how you get on.

    Best

    Iain

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    • Posted

      Hi Iain,

      I have had problems with my back for years, my spine is not straight as it has a curve, mid to lower back. Nothing was done just advised to be careful with lifting and to monitor it. Seemed fine until a few weeks ago, i have not lifted anything heavy so it seems strange to be playing up now.

      If he says to exercise i will probably tell him off as that doesnt work on hinders it believe me ive tried.

      I only take pain meds when really needed i hate taking them for the sake of it.

      Not sure if its relevant but i also suffer from asthma and hayfever which are both playing havoc with me at the minute.

      I will happily keep you posted.

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    • Posted

      I am going to look into the Yoga / Pilates as i think these may benefit me in the long run, thank you for suggesting them. I didnt think of those before. smile
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  • Posted

    Hi,

    sorry to hear about your pain. It's hard to give specifc advice since I can't know exactly what your problem is.  I've had back problems for +10 years so know a thing or two. You are best of researching the issue with or without the help of an osteopath (personally I would bypass doctors and use only for pain meds).  However there are a number of low risks things that can be done which might benefit and certainly can't do any harm (if they cause big pain - STOP!). 

    It sounds like, from your bathing example, that part of the problem is caused or made worse by muscle tension. The body has reflex to tighten muscles to protect damaged areas, though with back problems this can a) make the pain worse and b) is a problem in itself. Look on google for 'stretches for bad backs' etc. Start with the most gentle and progress gently. Stop if the pain is screamingly bad or obviously doing damage but don't be so cautious that you do nothing. I mean, many people slip into the groove of dong nothing because it causes pain but if  the pain is only very mild and temporary, like the pain from streching muscles it can be worthwhile pushing through it (this might sound crazy but it's my experience). Listen to your body but don't use moderate pain as an excuse to stop.  Over cautious attitude is as bad as over-exertion in my experience. This advice comes with the big disclaimer I mentioned before, If you get massive pain or a huge adverse reaction then clearly stop. It's ofcourse best to the best diagnosis you can before doing anything and like I say you can use an osteopath for this - they will also tell you the best exercises.. However, unless the pain is massive I would be inclined to start yourself and save some money and time - it's unlkely you will make it worse,  (if you are suitably gentle and ramp the duration sensibly). The exercise will also give you good information on what the problem might be and what works for you.

    More generally it's likely that you will need to look at how your lifestyle is contributing to the issue  and what you can do about it (sorry but this is true). It's probable you know what has caused the problem, either protracted sitting, heavy, repeated lifting or some combination (likely the former). The things you can do then are to reduce the factors that make it worse (less sitting, lifting etc) but more so make your body more resilient by improving your posture, core strength, flexibility etc. All the information is out there, there are no short cuts unfortunately though once you get into good habits it is easy and they will benefit you in other ways. Things like yoga, alexander technique are excellent life skills to have and well worth a try.

    As an extra I'd like to share some advice regarding doctors and osteopaths. I know you didn't ask for this, but heh (skip if you want). You say you are frequent flyer at the doctors, so I thought I would add this.  Personally I would avoid visiting doctors unless the pain is massive or you having very big restrictions. You have to understand that there is very little a doctor can actually do for you that you cannot do for yourself. All my doctors 'zone out' if they hear the words back pain.  They are only 'good' for issuing pain meds and other pain mititgation methods (accupuncture etc) though pain meds should really be used in conjunction with management techniques and when other management techniques have failed. If you start using pain meds as a crutch or 'cure all' you are setting yourself up for bigger problems in the long run and probably be dissapointed.  You have to remember also that surgery on backs is only of benefit in a tiny minority of cases (when all other avenues have been exhausted) so it's unlikely to be an option for you - since the risks of back surgery are so massive. Like I say, it all hinges on what kind of problem it is and as such the first step is to get a good diagnosis.

    As for osteopaths, I would say from my long experience that they of limited benefit in the long run. If you can find a good one then they will be able to give you a good diagnosis and the stretches,exercises to help. What you have to remember that is that whilst not all are money suckers, they are not positively motivated to cure your problem AND most importantly there is little they can actually do they will have any lasting benefits. The truest thing I ever heard from an osteopath was ' What I do for you is irrelevant compared to what you do yourself '.  It's like paying a plumber by the hour and being surprised when the problem is never fixed. Basically they are good for information, a good diagnosis and only if you:

    a) have money to burn and

    b) don't have the time, inclination or will power to stick to a exercise, stretching routine.

    TL;DR - Research the issue, try some gentle stretches, consider lifestyle changes. Use an osteopath for diagnosis and establishing a routine and longterm if you need the help. Use doctors for pain meds and/or when the problem cannot be otherwise managed.

    Hope this was helpful.

    Andrew

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    • Posted

      Hi Andrew,

      Phew slight essay there but thank you. some helpful information in there.

      I have tried numerous things and while an osteopath has been recommended i do not want to be paying there fees for doing hardly anything and with no true benefit to me.

      With regards to the Doctors appointments my Asthma warrants these as they are requested by my asthma nurse and doctor for continuing support as i have had 2 severe chest infections which have left damage in my lungs. - currently awating a hospital referral as it was quite bad.

      whilst i understand the dr may not be able to do anything i also have a long history of back problems which started at an early age, hence i would like advice before i proceed with anything.

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  • Posted

    Agree with Andrew's post. Hit the nail on the head and explained in detail. Really great information from someone who's obviously been there.

    About doctors. For most people back pain doesn't represent a serious medical condition but, in my view, this should be checked out to be safe. IMHO it would be a good idea to seek medical advice before starting an exercise program, especially If there is already a diagnosed condition.

    I guess I am saying work with your doctor but don't expect a magic fix. It works better to take control of your own well-being.

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  • Posted

    Hi,

    yeah sorry for the essay! The most important thing I should say is that ultimately the problem is a) caused  by  b) made worse by lifestyle factors. There is no solution without changing them. If you think a doctor can solve your problem you are going to be dissapointed.

    I hear what you say about cost, I wouldn't advise using an osteopath on a long term basis and ONLY if you are struggling to get a good diagnosis, even then some are clueless. Things like yoga and alexanders technique are likely to be cheaper options. The only free option is to use the internet to research and like I say ultimately there will be a point where you will have to take a small gamble and try a bit more with the exercises, stretches. I was one of the people that got caught in the trap of doing less and less on the hope that this would cure my problem. Also hassling my doctor for a solution and endless pain meds, however doing less only made the issue more sensitive and solved nothing. The advice that has worked for many people is that moderate activity, targeted stretching and improving your posture is the BEST solution to a bad back. Only use doctors if the pain cannot be controlled otherwise.

    I know all these things are a hassle but are they more of a hassle than having a bad back endlessly?

    Regards,

    Andrew

     

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    • Posted

      haha thats okay, i appreciate your time and help.

      while i understand exercise helps my job probably doesnt as i work 7.45 til 5 and am sitting for most of it. which in turn probably makes it worse, i try to move and walk when i can but sometimes is not easy when i need to be near the phone.

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    • Posted

      Ok, one last thing (that occured to me) ! Your situation sounds incredibly similar to mine, I had creeping pain in the lower back and then crushing back spasms and had a job that involved lots of sitting. If you are lucky it could just be muscular. If stretching, massages make it go away completely and it is not a problem on days-off you can more confident of this. However, if you are getting soreness that is certainly not muscular (not always easy to know) and is accompanied by inflamation then it could well be  a herinating disc. Given your massive amount of sitting (like me) I would say it is certainly very possible and quite common. What you should know about disc issues is that you only get pain when the problem is quite advanced (since the tissue that surrond the disc only has nerves on the outer layers) and that sitting kills the disc and forces it sideways (like a crushed mentos mint). In short I would take it very seriously and act proactively. You really don't want the huge pain and complications if the disc fully herniates (ie breaks out). 
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  • Posted

    Hi dawn,

    yeah I won't drone on much more wink. I would urge you make an effort with stretches with or without an osteopath (better with) or look into yoga/alexander technique.  Also bear in mind that once you get a bad back there is no cure only management (and that life with pain is miserable). At very least it is a monstrous hassle.  As such you might want to think about your work and whether it is worth doing these massive hours (of sitting) vs a lifetime of back problems. Prevention is always the best cure. Look into way of reducing your hours and/or doing everything you can to limit the impact (like kneeling chairs and everything else I mentioned. I had to leave sitting work in the end and ended up working at home (on my front) plus on-your-feet roles.  Better to act proactively than getting into my situation (or worse). I was much like you, I tried to manage with pain meds but just made it worse. Like Iain said, try to take control of the issue yourself and don't pin much hope in doctors.

    Best of luck,

    Andrew

    Andrew

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  • Posted

    Hi Dawn,

    I have lived with back pain and sciatica for years and still do - I only got mine tryly investigated after it progressed somewhat. If you find heat helps, then I would rec'd using the heat patches you can buy from chemist / supermarkets  - they do both hot and cold, I personally prefer the heat, which last all day. There are a few makes and vary in price, watch out some cannot be adhered to the skin where others can, expecially in sumer best to get the ones that CAN go direct in contact with skin. Other than meds such as diazepam ( 2mg or 5mg) for muscle spasm off GP, these are well worth a go...I have chronic pain so just save them for travelling and when v bad due to cost. You can get gels and sprays too but the patches ( activated charcoal, not medicinal) I find are best. There are some patches I found when on hols in Mauritius  ( only available on Amazon in UK ) called Tiger Balm (cool) - these have natural ingredients in and are amazing !! Bit mosr costly though. If it persists then an MRI scan may be worthy in the end. I live on painkillers and more as chronic now and have 3 prolapsed discs and nerve pain as well as muscle spasms to various degree. When you are fit enough strengthening your core muscles through Pilates, or gentle water aerobics is beneficial, and exercises as given by a physio. The natural reaction to muscle spasm and pain is to tense up - as crazy as this sounds if you are able to meditate and do relaxation exercises this can really help when flare up bad, as breatahing exercises and meditation really can relax your muslces ( look for Breathworks - Mindfullness on the net )....very useful tool ,

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