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Is bending my back dangerous?

It is important to understand that when you have back pain, while it can be horrendously painful and disabling, in the vast majority of cases (more than 90%) there is no structural damage.

What causes back pain?

Back pain is usually the result of a combination of factors coming together. These can include a mechanical force such as a fall or direct impact. But, what is really important to understand is that other factors can pre-sensitise your nervous system. This can make it easier for an innocent action to set off pain as a response. These can be elements of your general wellbeing such as your mental health and stress levels, sleep quality, physical activity and your beliefs about your back pain.

With about a third of all back pain the individual cannot identify any physical event that triggered the pain. If we compare our reaction to back pain to when we have a headache, we would not fear that we have damage in our head unless we have had a physical event to cause it. Why is back pain considered so differently?

It is less than 1 in 10 (about 5-9%) of all back pain that is caused by an injury to a specific structure that might be a disc. And even more rare (less than 1%) is caused by a serious pathology such as a fracture, an infection or cancer.

What should you do?

If we don’t have structural damage, being overly protective or guarded with movement is not helpful for recovery. If you sprained you ankle the best treatment is not to put it in a cast to protect it but to get is moving as soon as possible, and gently return to your normal activities. And it is the same for back pain.

Tightening the muscles of your back and your abdomen to protect your back can be the automatic response. But, this adds more stress to your back and can actually accentuate the pain you may feel. An expert in the field of back pain, Peter O’Sullivan, uses the example of experiencing the movement of your wrist while you hold your fist clenched tightly. Try moving your wrist in circles which clenching your fist. It doesn’t feel very comfortable does it? And you can see how much harder it is to move and how limited the movement is.

Is bending dangerous?

To get back to the question of bending… No, it is not supported by research that bending is bad for your back. Nor is it that holding your back straight is good for your back. Our back is designed to move in a range of directions and it gets stronger with use and loading. If you have pain, you may need to tone things down a little for the short term but it is the gentle mobility and gradual return to activity that will get you better. Bed rest for back pain is archaic advice and is not helpful.

Here are two great websites with lots of good and very useful information:

http://www.pain-ed.com/  &   https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/

Related articles:

Do I need a scan for my back pain?

What is sciatica?

What is the best treatment for low back pain?

If you would like to discuss this with on of the Flawless Physio team please get in touch.

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Feel good. Move well. Be better!

Very knowledgeable physio Team! Was in London on a business meeting and ended up visiting James for some urgent treatment on my lower back. Delighted with the service. James put me at ease straight away. His treatment was paramount in getting me through what was a hectic weekend. Could not recommend enough. Will definitely be back when in London again!
Funky Inflatable Co.
Funky Inflatable Co.
17:29 11 Sep 18
Went to "Flawless Physio" two weeks ago for back pain that I'd been carrying for months. Three sessions later, it's all gone! The staff was very pleasant, professional and gave me a series of simple exercises to do at home. I definitely recommend them. I'll be back, hopefully not too soon ;)
Charles Muzard
Charles Muzard
13:04 24 Sep 18
I was recommended to see James by my consultant following surgery to my ankle. He was extremely professional and knowledgable. He motivated me throughout the process and I have now returned to long distance running thanks to his help. I would recommend his services to anyone
David Burns
David Burns
19:32 08 Sep 18
Awesome team. I ended up having to seek out treatment when my back went into spasm (on going problem) whilst down visiting friends. I saw James and he was very professional and through with his treatment. More importantly he gave me a better understanding about what was going on and how to manage my injury in the future. Highly recommended!
James Tatham
James Tatham
08:03 20 Sep 18
I received treatment from Vicky for a very stiff and painful neck, possibly brought on by tension. I felt confident that my therapist was knowledgeable. The service was very friendly and professional and I felt good progress from the first session already. Vicky recommended some exercises and explained how to do them with very clear diagrams and instructions. I would highly recommend Vicky
Tiziana Guffanti
Tiziana Guffanti
17:23 29 Aug 18
I would highly recommend Flawless Physio. Excellent knowledge/treatment and also brilliant customer care - following up and giving advice. Tailored rehab to suit the type and level of sport as well as lifestyle. My wife & I have been treated by both James & Victoria and they have both been great. Will continue to use for any future injury & rehab.
Joe Gomes
Joe Gomes
19:11 30 Mar 19
I saw Victoria for my dodgy shoulder, and she was brilliant. Very professional And knowledgeable, she really took time to explain what was going on and to treat it. She followed up with me to check I was getting on well with the exercises. She is also really accommodating with timings for appointments. I couldn't recommend more highly, thank you Victoria!
Fiona Hall
Fiona Hall
08:35 27 Mar 19
First class. Had 4 or 5 appointments with Victoria that were always late in the evening, although you wouldn't know it. She took her time, whether that be on soft tissue work, explaining how to do an exercise, or the purpose behind it. A genuine person that wants to help and she clearly knows her stuff.
Jamie Moles
Jamie Moles
21:14 20 Jan 19
Went to flawless physio and vic was great! Training for a marathon and she was very understanding and helpful. Living in the Twickenham area so was in great location! Her specialist knowledge in knee injuries was able to get me back running in two weeks 🏃🏼‍♀️
Ruth Herlihy
Ruth Herlihy
23:44 25 Jan 19
I injured my leg (ITB) training for the Berlin Marathon and then made it far worse it by trying to run it. Victoria has been essential in my recovery, helping me understand how to strengthen the right muscle groups and get back to running. I have been very impressed by the depth of knowledge and insight. This weekend I will run the Cancer Research 10km. Thank you!
Paul Carpenter
Paul Carpenter
17:02 28 Jan 19
Really impressed with the service provided at Flawless Physio. Vicky was knowledgeable, professional and her invaluable treatment and advice got me to the start of this year’s marathon when I’d had to stop running with 8weeks to go. Without the advice and care I received at Flawless Physio, at best I’d have limped my way round the course and at worst, not been able to take part at all. Definitely recommend!
Katy Gomes
Katy Gomes
11:03 30 May 19
James helped resolve a hamstring injury that had troubled me for the best part of a year. I'll certainly use Flawless Physio for any future issues. Highly recommended.
Sandeep C
Sandeep C
18:02 30 Apr 19