Back Pain and Exercise? Should I?

Back Pain and Exercise? Should I?
Christine L. Foutch Naturopathic Physician Rock Island, Illinois

Christine Foutch is a practicing Holistic Physician in Rock Island, Illinois, specializing in Holistic Nutrition and Biomechanics. Holistic medicine is the art and the science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies... more

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Christine Foutch - Holistic Physician

Back Pain, Pains & Exercise

Many individuals have a false impression when it comes to back pain and exercise. Many people are reluctant to begin an exercise program out of fear that any stretching or exercising participation will aggravate and worsen their existing back pain. Going forward with that statement, take into consideration the heavy reliance on medical treatments, such as pain killers. They help to keep us going, but, under emphasizing the importance for healing and long term back pain relief.

Chronic pain is brutal and makes it hard to enjoy even the simplest of daily activities, not to mention the carrying out of any exercise routine. I must say, chronic pain hasn't always been understood all that well. Back in the day many professionals focused on treating the pain and If no underlying cause was found, the patient was told that "there are very few treatments available". Or worse yet, they were told that the "pain is all in their head". Some doctors do still practice in this way, as ego can get in the way of proper care.

In the present day with advanced neuroimaging, it has shown that chronic pain unlike acute or short term, can cause structural changes in the brain that add to the risk of cognitive problems, anxiety, and depression. More studies on brain physiology have also shown that the normal functions of the central nervous system can change based on one's experiences. More yet, medications and one's health conditions can add to this along with the anxiety and depression, playing a role in the changes as well.

There are no medical tests confirming chronic pain levels, and so many people end up going from doctor to doctor searching for a explanation, possibly leading to unnecessary evaluations and treatments. Neuropathic pain is distinct from other types of pain. If an individual say “break a bone”, the pain signals are carried by the peripheral nerves from the site of the trauma to the central nervous system.

With neuropathic pain, the pain is originating in the nerves themselves and becomes the disease, as in many cases the nerves can become dysfunctional and damaged causing hypersensitivity. The nerves can then send faulty signals of pain, even if the injury has healed.

When Back Pain Causes Neuropathy

I should throw in here that neuropathy can be a result of any type of pain that is compressing or impinging on a nerve. Neuropathic pain originating from the back or spine can include:

• Chronic pain down the leg (lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica)
• Chronic pain radiating down the arm (cervical radiculopathy)
• Pain following back surgery that starts gradually and persists (this is commonly called failed back surgery syndrome)

Diabetes and regional pain syndrome (RPS) are common causes of neuropathy. The additional causes can include the injury of course, disease, Infection, exposure to toxins, and substance abuse. I should thrown in here again that it isn't always the easiest thing to pinpoint the cause of pain. It is important to get yourself early treatment. Do not let this go, as more aggressive treatments may be needed if the symptoms are not addressed.

As time goes on, the exposure to significant pain can cause the changes to the central nervous system that bring the body towards the hypersensitivity, making the body more sensitive to even the slightest touch. This phenomenon is known as central sensitization. The delays in treatment may also increase the risk of other health problems, such as depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, inability to work, and the inability to take part in other activities. These are some of the other health Issues that are associated with untreated neuropathy.

For most of the back problems, exercise and movements are the natural stimuli for the healing process. This means gradual, progressive exercise that is. This most often provides the best long term solution for the reduction of back pain and preventing or at least lessening any future episodes. Most experts advise against any prolonged periods of inactivity as this can increase back pain, as the back becomes stiff, weak, and deconditioned. As back pain increases, one decreases their activity and exercise even more so and the cycle of inactivity and back pain continues.