Traditional treatment for chronic back pain has always involved rest, inactivity and prescription drugs. However, over the past decades, it is becoming widely recognised that a multimodal, lifestyle-centred approach to treatment including exercise intervention and stress management has significant results in reducing pain and improving quality of life.
Below is a summary of evidence-based advice that can help to improve your quality of life.
Quality sleep is of more importance than most other factors in the management of chronic pain as insufficient sleep is known to increase pain sensitivity. Extending sleep either by sleeping longer in the evening or by taking a mid-day nap can restore pain sensitivity to normal levels making symptoms easier to manage.
The increased energy to be gained from sleeping also encourages those living with chronic pain to spontaneously engage in more physical activity further reducing negative symptoms. Increased sleep also improves mood and perception of stress making day-to-day tasks easier.
We all know that we need to sleep- it is in fact the strongest natural urge humans experience after breathing- but in practice it isn’t always that simple. For a personalised sleep report and tips on how to improve your sleep, head to Sleepio, an online, science based sleep improvement program.
The current NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines state that exercise is the key mode of treatment for back pain rating it more successful than even manual therapies including sports therapy (which is only recommended alongside exercise). No one type of exercise is more superior than the other but what is important is finding the type of exercise that you enjoy, that you can perform safely and isn’t going to cause further injury. The exercises that prove to be the most effective at reducing pain and disability include yoga (Holtzman, 2013), stability and movement control exercise therapy (Luomajoki, 2018) and aerobic and resistance training (Wewege, 2018). Our pain free program is based upon these findings- to find out more simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Living with chronic pain causes psychological, emotional and physical stress which can impact upon mood, muscle tension, fatigue levels, pain perception and self-efficacy. As such, stress management is an important part of chronic back pain management.
NHS UK guidelines on managing stress include being active, setting time aside to do something that makes you happy, spending time with loved ones, setting yourself new challenges and avoiding unhealthy habits. Head to Mind Tools for more detailed tips on how to manage stress.
Diet & Nutrition
To maintain a healthy body, strong muscles and a strong back we need to ensure that we eat enough protein. The recommended minimum amount of protein to consume per day is 0.8-1g per kg of bodyweight. As your activity increases, your protein demands increase further to 1.6-2g per kg of bodyweight. Protein is an important part of every cell in the body and is used particularly to build muscle and repair tissue. Addressing protein intake is an often-neglected part of managing chronic pain but may be the missing part of the jig-saw.
Maintaining a healthy weight is also important if you suffer from chronic back pain as obesity is a risk factor for developing an injury itself. A recent study, where participants that suffered from chronic lower back pain were put on a nonsurgical weight loss program, found that along with a reduction in body fat, a reduction in pain and disability occurred simultaneously.
Graduates of our pain-free program receive access to our nutritional coaching which is an excellent tool to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Leading a sedentary life can increase weight gain, pain and mobility issues. Even if you exercise for one hour, this only accounts for 4% of your day, what you do with the other 96% is what can really make a difference. Daily activity does not mean pounding the pavements for hours at a time, it is the accumulation of movement that occurs during your daily routine. It can include cleaning your house or carrying out tasks at work.
If you find that don’t easily incorporate much movement into your day taking a walk can be one of the easiest ways to increase this. Walking has been found to improve pain, disability and quality of life and is a free, easy and accessible form of activity. It is recommended to walk at a moderate pace for 10 minutes building to 30 minutes, up to 5 times per week (NICE, 2015).
This information may feel overwhelming if you aren’t incorporating any of this advice into your day-to-day life already. However, pick one thing, master it and then move onto the next. You will find that one thing feeds the other for example, once you have improved your sleep, you will have more energy to exercise and when you are exercising you will be more motivated to improve your diet.
For more information about anything covered in this article or if you feel like you may benefit from our pain-free program email email@example.com
Malfliet, A.; Ickmans, K.; Huysmans, E.; Coppieters, I.; Willaert, W.; Van Bogaert, W.; Rheel, E.; Bilterys, T.; Van Wilgen, P.; Nijs, J. Best Evidence Rehabilitation for Chronic Pain Part 3: Low Back Pain. J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8, 1063
Meucci, R.D.; Fassa, A.G.; Faria, N.M. Prevalence of Chronic Low Back Pain: Systematic Review. Rev. Saude Publica 2015, 49, 73
Geneen LJ, Moore RA, Clarke C, Martin D, Colvin LA, Smith BH. Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 4