This article is part 2 of a 2 part series. For Part 1, click here.
Last month, we started a great discussion on “what NOT to do” when you have low back pain (LBP). Let’s continue that focus this month!
5. STAY STILL: You’ve heard, “…don’t do that – you’ll get a bad back!” There is something to be said about being careful, but one can be too cautious as well. In order to determine how much activity vs. rest is appropriate, you have to gradually increase your activities by keeping track of how you feel both during and after an activity. If you do notice pain, it may be “safe” to continue depending on the type and intensity of the pain. In general, a sharp, knife-like pain is a warning sign that you should STOP what you’re doing, while an ache is not. Until you’re comfortable about which type of pain is “safe,” start out with the premise, “…if in doubt, stop.” If the recovery time is short (within minutes to hours), then no “harm” was done. If it takes days to recover, then you overdid it. Think of a cut on your skin – if you pick at it too soon, it will re-bleed, but if you are careful, you can do a lot of things safely without “re-bleeding.” Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about the proper way to bend, lift, pull, push, and perform any activity that you frequently have to do that often presents problems. There is usually a way to do that activity more safely!
6. SURGERY IS A “QUICK FIX”: Though in some cases this may inevitably be the end result for your back condition, most of the time, it is not needed. As a rule, don’t jump to a surgical option too soon. It’s tempting to view surgery as a “quick fix,” but non-surgical care for at least for 4-6 weeks and maybe several months is usually the best approach. As the old saying goes, you can’t “un-do” a surgery, so wait. UNLESS there are certain warning signs such as: a) bowel or bladder weakness &/or, b) progressive neurological losses (worsening weakness in the leg). If there are no “surgical indicators” meaning, no instability, no radiating leg pain, and only low back pain that is non-specific and hard to isolate what is generating the pain, DO NOT have surgery as the chances of improvement following surgery drops off dramatically in this group. There are guidelines that we all should follow and they all support non-surgical care initially for 4-6 weeks. Chiropractic is one of the best options cited in these guidelines because it’s less costly, involves less time lost from work, and chiropractic carries the highest patient satisfaction.
7. DON’T STRETCH – IT’S HARMFUL: You may have heard or read that stretching can actually increase or worsen your time if you’re a runner, reduce your ability to lift heavy weight (if you’re a weight lifter), or cycle as fast. Though this seems obviously silly, there IS a growing body of evidence that has found this TO BE TRUE! HOWEVER, it appears (at least at present), that is applies primarily to static, long hold stretching and NOT to dynamic exercising like jumping jacks, toy-soldier like high kicks, or core stabilization. Moreover, no study YET has found a negative effect for non-athletic competitive activities or for low back pain specifically. A good general rule is, if you feel better after exercising, or in this case stretching, it’s probably better for you than not. Also, as stated last month, there is a “right vs. wrong” time to exercise and WAY to exercise. For example, when LBP occurs in flexion but reduces in extension, there is plenty of evidence published that performing exercises INTO the direction of pain relief is VERY helpful. So until you hear differently, KEEP ON STRETCHING, but follow our advice!