Back Pain: What you need to know and what you don’t

I set out to write an informative article on causes and potential cures for chronic backpain. However, after talking to friends, family, and health/fitness professionals, I realized that their responses made for an even more interesting piece. As one of my clients used to say, ‘If you are a hammer, everything you see is a nail.’ In other words, there were many answers depending on who replied. The one thing everyone agreed on was that back pain is common and back pain is a real pain in the – well you know.

Over 80% of Americans will probably experience some form of back pain at some point in their lives. And guess what? It isn’t just those over 50. More often than not, today’s youth are experiencing pain due to what I call the 21st century curse:  Poor posture, too much sitting, too little exercise and too much texting. 

I received a lot of replies when asking my friends and colleagues how they managed their or their clients’ back pain. My friend in North Carolina told me he is debating whether or not to get spine surgery or keep trying with less invasive forms of pain management. I heard from yoga teachers praising the miracles of gentle stretching and meditation. I was contacted by several Bodywork professionals touting the benefits of assisted stretching and, last but not least, Pilates clients raving about the therapeutic benefits of a simple pelvic tilt. I spoke with a successful Osteopath in the UK who works with a variety of conditions and has a deep and thorough understanding of human anatomy. She strongly believes in the power of movement. As a matter of fact, the one piece of advice everyone had from clients to trainers to doctors was just keep moving. Everyone I spoke to was acutely aware that back pain is a huge problem. We all want to help fix ourselves and our clients and we are prepared to reach into our toolboxes to find the best solution.

Then there is this: All those experts on social media who claim to have the miracle gadget or single exercise that will fix back pain in a matter of hours? Beware. These so-called experts are more interested in making a buck than helping people. Sadly, there are a lot of them floating around social media. I get at least one email a day from someone who is trying to sell me something that will fix my back in record time. If only it were that easy. As a friend and Pilates instructor once told me ‘Don’t believe what you read on the Internet.’ Very wise advice indeed.

I have more than 20 years in the fitness/Pilates business and many more years struggling with my own back pain. My advice to fellow back pain sufferers is to move safely and move often. I’ve had a lot of success with clients who showed remarkable improvement once they lost their fear of movement. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. In the wise words of Bob Marley ‘Lord I gotta keep on moving.’ That pretty much says it all.

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