I was reading an interesting study today that explored whether a positive attitude and active approach makes any difference to the prognosis for long term back pain. This study compared patients who took an active approach to tackling their lower back pain to those who had a more passive response. For example, someone with an active approach and a positive attitude may stay more active, the
y keep busy to distract their attention from their pain and continue to take part in physical activities and will seek physical therapy such as osteopathy to help to reduce the pain and restore mobility.
The patients with a more passive attitude are more likely to expect pain relief medication to fix their pain; they become increasingly dependent on others for help with daily tasks and likely to believe that there is nothing they can do themselves to lessen their pain. The study showed that the patients with a more passive approach to their pain were 50% more likely to have a poor outcome, experiencing ongoing and deteriorating symptoms.
What is it that takes away the determination of some people to get better, saps their positivity and makes them surrender to their back pain? Fear; fear is one of the biggest factors feeding ongoing, chronic low back pain. Fear of pain can be enough to alter someone’s movement and activity.
Someone with low back pain may want to protect their spine if they believe it is damaged and be constantly worried about causing more damage. This can lead to a decrease in activity and restricted, protective patterns of movement – bending while holding the back as rigid as possible, often while holding the breath, or maybe avoiding bending altogether. Over time this restricted, stiffened style of moving creates painful muscle tension in the muscles running either side of the spine which perpetuates the idea that there is something wrong with the back. This feeds into the cycle of the Fear Avoidance Model of pain which can lead eventually to long term disability and depression which collaborate to increase the pain experienced.
Some of the language we use to describe back problems can be particularly un-nerving, terms such as ‘degenerative bony changes’ and ‘slipped disc’; even the common phrase ‘I have put my back out’ conveys something far more sinister than a muscle strain. . It might interest you to know that it is estimated that 57% of people over the age of 60 have at least one ‘slipped disc’, the majority of those herniated discs do not cause chronic pain!
If you are experiencing on-going back pain, it may be time for you to take a fresh approach. In a large study of nearly half a million patients with chronic headaches, low back or osteoarthritic pain acupuncture was found to be moderately or markedly effective in 76% of cases, in another study of 89,000 patients, 93% found acupuncture successful for treating their musculoskeletal pain and another study has shown that the benefits were persisting 12 months after treatment ended. How many pain relief medications would still be having an effect 12 months afterwards?
I work with Chinese acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and gua sha to release tension and pain in the body and to ease stress and fear which both feed into ongoing pain. My husband, Nick is an osteopath with a special interest in musculoskeletal acupuncture and the psychology of chronic pain. Some of the patients we see have quite a complicated history, have been bounced between consultants for several years and on a complex pain-medication regime; for those cases it can be really useful for us to both attend a consultation with you so we can assess your case from both an Eastern and Western perspective. This combined approach may provide an extra layer of information which can help initiate recovery; between us we can offer the emotional and physical support that is often needed to move someone out of chronic pain. If you would like to come and meet with us to discuss your case further, please contact us and arrange to come into the clinic for a consultation.
Alexandra O’Connor LicAc MBAcC
Holicity Acupuncture (Maldon)
Burnham Osteopathic Clinic (Burnham)
For appointments in either location, please telephone 01621 786600