My back pain just won’t go away!

 Lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability according to the Global burden of disease, as it affects 1 in every 4 people. We are not talking about acute back injuries but more about constant unrelenting pain, back pain that never seems to go away.

While this may seem to be a very worrying statistic, the exciting news is that there is something we can do about this persistent pain.

First, we need to ask ourselves what is persistent pain? Here is an absolutely brilliant video to help you make sense of this challenging subject:

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In a body system which is not an high alert, neurons (nerve cells) react to a stimulus, like stepping on a sharp object, by sending messages to the spinal cord and brain about what has just happened. The brain then decides, based on previous knowledge and experience, how it should react and if protection is necessary. Pain is therefore the output of these decisions if the brain feels that the body is threatened.

Sometimes this system becomes over protective and sends signals for non- threatening activities which your brain then interprets as threatening and decides to protect you against, causing pain. The longer your brain produces pain, the better it gets at producing it. Your brain becomes an expert at experiencing pain. For example, the more you practice playing the piano, the easier it is to train your fingers to reach the different keys.

Over the last few decades there have been many great discoveries about pain. Here are just a few things we have learnt so far:

  1. Pain is always real, no matter the cause.
  2. Pain is affected by your environment, previous experiences and emotions.
  3. Any situation that your brain interprets as a danger for you will increase your experience of pain and any situation that your brain interprets as being safe will decrease your experience of pain.
  4. Pain and tissue damage are poorly related. It is possible to experience severe pain without injuring the tissues at all, and experience no pain with severe tissue damage. Pain is not a measure of damage, it is telling you to protect yourself.
  5. Movement is KING. Movement suppresses pain, helps us learn, protects against other problems and is the best way to recover.
  6. Understanding pain and retraining the way your brain experiences pain is the most effective way to manage persistent pain.

So, what does this mean for you? Well hopefully it will help you to change the way you think about and experience your pain.

If you would like to find out more about pain and how it can affect your life or you would like to discuss your ideas, knowledge and previous experiences and how they could be contributing to your pain, make an appointment with your physiotherapist today.

Compiled by Emma Bennett, Chanel du Piesanie and Robyn Wiggishoff

Based on information from