As January kicks in, many of us are starting the year keen to get fit and certainly the gym I go to everyday, is full to bursting. As I watched others earlier on the treadmill, it made me reflect on my own relationship with exercise and how it enabled me to avoid medication and surgery for a really painful lower back injury.
Recent research has revealed that over-the-counter pills such as ibuprofen are rarely effective when it comes to relieving chronic back pain – I could have told them that!
An estimated sixth of the UK population suffers from back pain at any one time – that is a lot of people! and just one patient in six achieved any significant relief from their symptoms.
Back, neck and muscle problems also led to a staggering 31 million days of work being lost last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira, of the George Institute for Global Health in Australia, which carried out the new study, said: “Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is commonly managed by prescribing medicines such as anti-inflammatories.
“But our results show anti-inflammatory drugs actually only provide very limited short-term pain relief. They do reduce the level of pain, but only very slightly, and arguably not of any clinical significance. When you factor in the side effects which are very common, it becomes clear that these drugs are not the answer to providing pain relief to the many millions who suffer from this debilitating condition every year.”
Research Fellow Gustavo Machado, of the School of Medicine at the University of Sydney, said: “Millions are taking drugs that not only don’t work very well, they’re causing harm. We need treatments that will actually provide substantial relief of these people’s symptoms.
“Better still we need a stronger focus on preventing back pain in the first place. We know that education and exercise programmes can substantially reduce the risk of developing low back pain.”
The study is published in Annals Of The Rheumatic Diseases.
So here is my story:
It was three years ago, when I woke up quite randomly with the most excruciating pain that seemed to have no cause whatsoever - it arrived and with each passing day, got steadily worse.
As previously, when in pain I visited my GP who gave me loads of painkillers and anti inflammatory pills – nothing worked and still the pain was excruciating. I couldn’t function and I was tearing my hair out in desperation.
I saw back specialists and had scans and MRI’s. The results were so upsetting as they told me I had a serious bulge in my lower discs and I will never forget crying in the surgeons office as he told me the only way I could stop the pain was by having an operation and even then there was only a 40% chance the pain would stop – it was NOT good news.
However, I didn’t listen to the surgeon, particularly after visiting several physiotherapists who assured me that with hard work, my back could heal. So what did I do? Several things:
- The first thing that really helped was walking – everyday I forced myself to walk for a minimum of thirty minutes. Without having a pet to walk, it seemed strange to be walking in the park by myself, but it got me moving and my energy started to come back.
- Seeing a physio when in acute back pain is really important as getting professional advise on what exercises are going to help at that very painful stage is so important. I remember being given ice packs by the box and gentle exercises that I could do at home and were focused for the type of injury I had.The best thing I did in those months of weekly physio was start to get into a daily routine of exercising.
- A really useful tip if you are seeing a physio, is to get them to take a photo of you doing the exercises or stretches so that you will remember them for the future.
A combination of physio led exercises that I still do today and actually loosing quite a bit of weight really helped me heal, but the other factor that really played a part in my journey to back health was sleeping.
Because of my back pain, my sleep routine had completely dissolved and every night I was awake lying in bed and tossing and turning from side to side trying to get rid of the pain. When I woke up in the morning, it was so terrible, as the positions I eventually fell asleep in, were so bad for me – my body was contorted or curled up, my arms were above my head- I was in so much pain.
It was meditation that soothed these bad nocturnal habits alongside an app called headspace!
I remember finding a quiet corner just before bedtime and beginning with a ten minutes stretch routine and then sit crossed legged on the floor, put my phone in front of me and meditating with this voice in my ear and focusing on my breathing and nothing else.
Once I had done that, sleep came very easily and this became my bedtime routine for about a year and gradually all my aches and pains faded away and my journey to a healthy back began.
Wearing Homebody became part of my routine for sleep and all these factors have genuinely made a huge impact on healing any aches and pains I suffered as I truly believe so many illnesses are linked to sleep
Shop the homebody collection, for your first step to relief.