How to reduce chronic back pain
Posted on 7 September 2016
As far as common ailments are concerned, lower back pain has to rank among the most prevalent and talked about maladies in everyday life. With expertise across both orthopaedic and spinal modalities, Mediclinic Cape Gate orthopaedic surgeon Dr Willem Strydom discusses this common type of discomfort and provides some simple solutions in maintaining a healthy and functional back.
Most common types of back chronic pain
‘It is important to distinguish exactly which type of back pain a patient is suffering from,’ says Dr Strydom. ‘As far as different types of back pain go, there are two main treatment categories: stand-alone axial back pain, and axial back pain with referred pain.
‘Stand-alone axial back pain is by far the most common complaint and can be remedied without surgical intervention. The cause of this pain is most often myofascial in nature. Back pain together with referred pain down the limbs is a surgically treatable condition once all conservative options have failed.’
The human body is covered by a sheet of connective tissue that controls the muscles in a stabilising manner. This all-encompassing band is known as fascia, and includes several layers ranging from superficial to deep. Myofascial pain is therefore defined as chronic pain within this band and is characterised by localised symptoms in specific areas of the body, particularly the back.
Strengthening natural back support
Modern-day life is synonymous with hectic work and family schedules. General fitness tends to suffer as result, which can lead to various muscle imbalances and increased instances of back pain. But as Dr Strydom explains, maintaining an optimal level of fitness is critical to back health in general.
‘Life gets busier once people finish their education. Many a person can attest to being active in their youth only to experience their residual fitness declining in later life.’
Dr Strydom recommends working out four times a week to improve fitness. A combination of low-intensity aerobic exercise with some form of core stability work is his preferred prescription for exercise, and core strength is the most critical as far as back health is concerned.
‘A strong core is vital in maintaining good posture and being pain-free,’ he says. ‘In fact, most instances of myofascial back pain can be remedied by the prescription of core stability exercises. Activities such as pilates, yoga and even dancing and boxing are all great options in this regard.
Sports like jogging and swimming tend not to strengthen the core and are better classified as aerobic exercises that would complete a well-rounded fitness regimen.
‘It is important to have a trusted GP who can make the initial diagnosis and refer accordingly,’ he adds.
‘In the case of myofascial back pain, I refer patients to a biokineticist or physiotherapist who are trained to provide a comprehensive program of core exercises tailored to suit the individual.’