Have you suffered from back pain for many years? Has your doctor told you that your scans showed degenerative changes in your spine and a few bulging discs? Do you know someone whose life has been restricted because of their “bad back”? If you have answered “yes” to any of the above, you should know that you are not alone!
Now let’s crunch some numbers and statistics!
- According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 1 in 6 Australians (16%) reported back problems in 2014-2015. That’s 3.7 million people.
- It is estimated that 70-90% of people will suffer from back pain in some form at some point of their lives.
- 70% of people around 40 with no back pain have degenerative changes.
- 50% of people around 40 have disc bulges.
- 90% of people with back pain for which a cause can’t be found
So, what do all these numbers mean?
As you can see, back pain is very common, so is degenerative findings on Xray, CT and MRI. The words such as “disc bulging” “slipped disc” “narrowing” “bone and bone” may sound very alarming and definitely will raise more concerns and uncertainty for people who is already suffering in pain.
What is worth noticing is through clinical practice and studies, we have found that the scans rarely explain what the person with back pain is going through. This means someone who has back pain may have no significant findings in theirs scans, and someone whose scans show degenerative changes with disc bulge, spinal canal narrowing may suffer only mild or no back pain at all.
What can I do to help with my back pain?
Step 1: know that the scan doesn’t tell everything about what you are going through.
Step 2: know that persistent pain doesn’t mean you are damaging your back further. It means that the structures around your back are sensitized.
Step 3: don’t restrict all your physical activities because you fear you will damage your back further. Gentle physical activities which are paced according to your pain limit is not only healthy for your spine but also for the rest of your body and mind.
Step 4: know what your back likes and doesn’t like, so you can take control of your back pain and not let it control your life.
Step 5: know there isn’t one best solution to fix your back, your back is unique just like you are.
Step 6: if you are unsure of any of the above, see a physiotherapist for a thorough assessment will help you understand better how your habits, movements or the lack of are contributing to your back pain.
Book with Jess Zhu at our Langwarrin Clinic on 03 9878 1233, or Eramosa Physiotherapy Clinic, 03 5977 6590
Written by: Jess Zhu