10 Jan 2022

Back pain: My back just went and I’m in agony – I only picked up a pencil!

By Charles Herbert
Back pain - the straw that broke the camel's back

All I did was pick up a pencil! And the back pain is horrific!

We have a lot of people come and see us in agony; excruciating back pain radiating down their legs (sciatica), that started after picking up a pencil off the floor! It’s not always a pencil, however some arbitrary movement you’ve done many times before.  So why does your back ‘go’ in such an extreme way when you weren’t doing something silly or heroic?!  The best answer is the saying: ‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’.  What this means is, a camel can carry a lot of straw, however eventually there will be the difference of one piece of straw that will ‘break the camel’s back’.

So what do humans and camels have in common?

Well, I’m not going to go down the hump route.  The similarity is, as modern day humans our 21st century lifestyles are constantly putting stress (bits of straw) on our backs.  We are not designed to sit, yet we sit for hours on end at work or in front of the tv, often in poor postures slouching.  Research tells us we sit on average for 7.7 hours per day, which is 55% of our waking day.  We are designed to lift using our legs but we lift mostly using our backs.  We aren’t designed to live constantly stressful lives, yet we live lives filled with deadlines, worries and negative thoughts.  So what happens is we constantly load and stress our lives with pieces of straw, and often our spine is taking the brunt of it.  One day we do something we have done a 100 times before, however the out come is quite different.  We pick up a pencil from the floor, we sneeze, we lift our child from their cot, we get out of bed – and we end up in agony!

One day you do something we’ve done 100x before, like lean over the sink or twist to grab a cup of tea, and your back spasms in agony.

What happens when the back ‘breaks’?The Straw that broke the camel's back - back pain

The most common thing that happens is one of your spinal vertebra move out of position and cause a ‘trapped nerve‘.  This trapped nerve can cause considerable back pain and secondary muscle spasm around the area; if trapped hard enough, you can feel it where the nerve goes – like down the leg, which is called sciatica.
The other thing that can happen is a disc herniation.  This is a lot more serious and needs urgent examination from a trained professional, hopefully a Chiropractor.  A disc herniation is also known colloquially as a ‘slipped disc’.  The discs are cartilage pads that sit between each vertebrae and act as shock absorbers.  When they herniate they bulge outwards and press on the spinal root nerves – this hurts a lot!

So what should I do when the straw breaks my camel’s back?

Firstly, grab an ice pack.

The back pain you are feeling is caused by inflammation, and inflammation is heat.  An ice pack cools down the area and therefore decreases the inflammation and pain. Wrapped in a towel hold over the area of injury for 15 minutes every hour.

The first thing to do is grab an ice pack; then call a Chiropractor to help with the pain and to help sort out the root of the problem.

Secondly, keep moving around.

Standing still allows your spine to seize up and worsens the whole problem, so keep moving!

Thirdly, call a Chiropractor.

A Chiropractor is trained to diagnose exactly what has caused your pain and are trained to treat it too.  This type of injury is called a biomechanical injury, meaning the pain is caused by something physically not working properly.  There is no better profession, in my biased opinion, to deal with this type of injury than a Chiropractor.  In the rare case Chiropractic is not the right course of action, we know where to send you so you get the right care.

We personally recommend these excellent Bristol Chiropractors and Sports Massage Therapists for all your aches and pains….


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