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Are you scared of your back pain?

October 29, 20234 min read

Are you scared of your back? Have you struggled with a back injury in the past that has left you terrified of it happening again? Are you currently experiencing pain which is making you move like you are made of wood?

I want to tell you a story – a 42-year-old mum of 2 was on holidays in Majorca and the day following the flight, she was in so much pain in her low back. She felt her back had seized up and wasn’t comfortable in any position. She panicked as she had spent thousands on the holiday and had been adamant that she needed to make the most of it and relax. There were tears and panicking and thoughts of the holiday being ruined, needing painkillers etc.

That mum of 2 on holiday was me!

I have been a physio now for over 20 years and feeling the pain I had - which wasn’t even severe, caused me to totally panic and catastrophise that my long awaited and desperately needed holiday was going to be ruined. Now – luckily for me, my long-suffering husband (who is very used to my catastrophising) is also a physio – reminded me of a few things. I didn’t have raging leg pain, numbness, tingling, bladder, or bowel problems! I still had fairly good range of movement, mobility and hadn’t had a traumatic injury.

He reminded me that we had just spent the prior day travelling to the airport, waiting in a very full and busy airport. Flying (for which I have high anxiety - but that’s another story), waiting in a HUGE queue for passport checks and covid vaccination checks etc. The whole time lugging around heavy hand luggage (I made the most of hand luggage to not pay extra!!!). A very long transfer during which our driver couldn’t find our hotel. All of this with 2 young children who were exhausted and, on the edge, to say the least. Followed by a delayed hotel check-in as they couldn’t initially find our booking. We finally got into our room in the early hours of the morning (with a then 7 and a 4-year-old. – you’ll be feeling sympathy if you have young children).

Now I get firsthand that back pain can be disabling and worrying, but it is actually very common and rarely dangerous. 

Low back pain is one of the most prevalent health conditions in the UK, affecting millions of people each year. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is estimated that 1 in 3 adults in the UK experience low back pain and it can affect people of all ages, although it does become more common with age. The pain usually improves within days or a few weeks but can sometimes last longer or keep coming back.

Back pain can feel horrible. It can be exhausting and distressing. So much is heard about ‘slipped discs’ ‘wear and tear’ ‘disc disease’ and ‘crumbling bones’ that if you suddenly start feeling back pain – it can leave you feeling scared and reluctant to move let alone exercise. Often the pain experienced is not actually due to injury or trauma to the tissues – it can happen because of your general wellbeing. Being sleep deprived, stressed, anxious, physically tired, dehydrated, doing too much of one movement or a sustained position and asking too much of your muscles when they’re not used to it can all factor in causing back pain.

In my story – the carrying of a ridiculously heavy backpack (and at times also a 4-year-old), the stress of work leading up to me taking a fortnight off, the fear I have of flying, the long time spent standing queueing, sitting traveling and the worry of going abroad with young children for the first time meant my nervous system was on red alert and my muscles just tightened up and spasmed in response.

Did it ruin my holiday – no! I ‘gently’ reminded myself to move, swim, and do some exercises to stretch and mobilise my joints. My lovely physio husband did some soft tissue release on my back and gluteal (buttock) muscles to help relax my muscles by settling my nervous system and switching off the ‘red alert alarm’. My pain settled, my movement improved and within a few days, I was pretty much back to normal and having diving competitions with my daughter!

So, to all of you out there struggling with back pain – I want to reassure you that back pain doesn't necessarily mean damage or long-term disability. Back pain can fully resolve and is treatable with physiotherapy. I understand what you are going through, and I am here to help you if you need it.

back painpain experienced tissuessustained positionheavy backpack
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