Much of the time, low back pain is what we call “multi-factorial” or “complex.” So what does that mean? For you as a patient and me as a clinician, it means that there will be ups and downs. Treating low back pain will take time and effort to reduce, control, and prevent pain. During this time, how do you LIVE with the pain? Well here are a few tips that will help you through the process and increase your chances of enjoying your life through the low back pain journey.
One of the first steps you can take before or after you see a clinician is writing a pain journal. How will this help you ask? It can help you and your Doctor to understand more about your pain pattern. Here are the basics: each day, write down when your pain is at its WORST and when your pain is at its BEST. Then, note what you were doing at that moment AND 2 hours before (as that could have been the cause). ALSO, note what social environment you were in at that moment and 2 hours before (where you are and who you were with). LASTLY, note your emotional state at that moment and 2 hours before. For example:
“Today my back hurt the worst in the morning around 9. I had woke up at 7AM and walked the dog but was driving to work at 9AM. I was frustrated with the dog in the morning and cranky on my way to work. My back pain was best at 3PM at our staff meeting. I had gone to the gym 12:30-1:30 during lunch break and was in a good mood. We had an interactive staff meeting with games and I was excited to be so interactive with my co-workers.”
This example helps you both to realize that mornings may be worse due to your tissue condition, but also due to your mood and morning tasks. Your social environment tends to make you feel better and being active definitely helps (the gym and interactive meeting). Try this if you have back pain for one week and see if you can recognize either your triggers or relieving factors!
Another important part of the LIVING with back pain process is to understand how important your functional goals are to recovery. Small steps toward regaining function can actually CHANGE your pain experience! For example: if you love kayaking but cannot sit due to your back pain, this can make you miserable and upset each time you have to miss the weekend kayak trip with your friends. Start with SMALL steps! Ask one friend to go for a 10-minute kayak ride one morning to see if your back can handle 10 minutes. If that is successful, try 15-minutes the week after. Being able to enjoy your favorite activity can go a long way toward a successful and happy recovery!
Reach out to me with questions! Videos coming this week with more small tips and tricks!