Physio to patient-how hurting my back reminded me of the importance of guided recovery.

A couple months ago I twinged my lower back during a netball game. Like most, I expected it would go away with rest and gentle movement. I know, I know, as a Physiotherapist I should know better but I was using the “life is too busy to put myself first” excuse! Over the next couple months it settled. Then four weeks ago I decided to quickly jump up like a spring chicken during one of our Core & More classes (like I do every week) and TWANG! There it went again. Suddenly on the other side of the fence, I was quickly realising how many of my clients with lower back pain get swept into the “she’ll be right” cycle; twang, rest, repeat.

Instead of falling into the same trap for a second time, I made myself a treatment plan- to be carried out with the help of our trusty Physio Patrick as my second set of eyes/hands. 

This experience really highlighted the importance of Allied Health Professionals and the following principles. 

  • Directional preference - Majority of people with low back pain will prefer movement in a certain direction. Identifying if someone has a directional preference takes professional analysis. A Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist needs to watch you do the movement, taking note of it’s quality. This provides important cues regarding how to best use this motion. We then formulate an exercise which involves working with some soreness in a controlled manner- the feeling of relief afterwards is what we want. Repeating this exercise frequently, approximately 10 repetitions 3-5 times a day (these parameters may vary from person to person), will give you the best outcome. 

  • Detect inflammation early - Inflammation is a process that occurs in the muscles, tissues and/or joints when you hurt yourself. Detecting inflammation early and treating it appropriately can speed recovery. Your physiotherapist will ask a number of questions which may indicate an inflammatory pattern. Signs of inflammation often include: 
  • Resting pain that doesn’t alleviate with change of position 
  • Pain at night that stops you falling asleep or wakes you up 
  • Morning pain/stiffness which lasts more than 30mins 
  • Heat, redness and swelling of the injured area

Before taking anti-inflammatories consult with a pharmacist or GP to ensure it is safe to do so. 

  • Front load plan- Unfortunately, one physiotherapy session isn’t going to solve the problem. Like directional preference, if manual therapy techniques eg. massage, mobilistations, dry needling etc make it feel better, you need to do it regularly! This often means you need to be treated regularly in the first phase (eg. twice a week for 2-3 weeks) to restore normal movement and reduce pain. 

  • Grade yourself back to normal activities - Following phase 1, over a period of several weeks it is crucial your body is slowly graded back into activity using specific exercises tailored to you. If you hurt your back at the gym doing 50kg deadlifts, don’t expect to be back in the gym the following week doing 50kg deadlifts! Graded exposure is critical in building the endurance of the involved muscles in order to tolerate future stressors. Unfortunately phase 2- “build it up”, is often neglected as clients regularly feel pain free. However, this stage is just as important as phase 1. This is when we work on breaking the cycle and focus on reducing the risk of future injury/pain. 

If this sounds like you or you’ve currently got a sore back, neck or leg, call 8682 6665 and book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists TODAY! Break the cycle and get yourself an expert lead treatment plan! 

I look forward to helping you on your journey to full recovery.

-Ciara (Physiotherapist)

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