Back Pain: Sharon's story
I have been very lucky, only once have I suffered back pain. When I did, it came on suddenly and I had no idea what had caused it. I had to use my ‘pregnancy breathing’ to crawl up the stairs to bed where I stayed for 3 days until I was able to start to move. After that I had much sympathy for those with continuing back problems.
According to the NHS, back pain causes more disability than any other condition and lower back pain is suffered by 1 in 10 people. For many the pain eases within a few months with rest and some activity, but for some it does not.
Sharon was one of those people, for whom back pain came and stayed. Onset was sudden and rather than an overall ache it was a sharp pain that was only felt at certain angles.
At first the GP prescribed pain-killers and an anti-inflammatory drug. However an MRI showed a herniated disc in the spine. A herniated disc is a condition that can occur anywhere along the spine, but most often occurs in the lower back. It is sometimes called a bulging, protruding, or ruptured disc. It is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, as well as leg pain or “sciatica.”
Wear and tear
As we age, many of us will suffer ‘slipped discs’, this is just normal wear and tear and many of us will have no symptoms. For those who do, it is because the jelly-like substance in the disc has leaked out and is pressing on a nerve. In Sharon’s case the problem resulted in spinal surgery. This kind of surgery, so near to the spinal column (the body’s central nervous system), is only performed when really necessary.
Unfortunately for Sharon (susceptible to disc problems) this happened a second time and surgery was once again required. Both operations involved a month off work for recovery but movement and some exercises were important from the day after she was discharged. Desperate to avoid strong pain-killers, Sharon was determined to follow these 100%.
Self-care is now very high on Sharon’s agenda. She is careful not to overdo strenuous work involving the back muscles, like gardening. She is aware that her job involves sitting at a computer for long periods but is mindful to get up and move every so often
In addition, she regularly practices Pilates and has continued the back exercises she was taught after surgery. She notices a difference in her ability to do exercises by the end of a Pilates class and feels this is an important part of looking after her back.
Many people with back pain also suffer depression as a result of chronic pain but also from the restrictions this kind of pain causes in people’s lives. At one time Sharon was unable to sit on the floor with her toddler or pick him up.
One of the best ways to avoid back pain is to keep mobile. Walking and dynamic (moving) stretch exercises, like those performed in Pilates, build stronger back muscles and keep the joints and discs in good working order.
Back pain is very common, for many it will come and go and it is not necessarily a life-long problem. Looking after your back and strengthening your core (which include back muscles) can be key in preventing back pain in the future.