Rethinking Pain: Treating Lower Back Aches

Almost everyone will have low back pain at some point in their lives (Clark and Horton, 2018). It can affect anyone at any age and the cause may not always be as clear as you’d think.

Back pain can be unpredictable, turning your life upside down as you struggle to walk or even sit. Desperate to rid the pain, you may consider surgery, although there are many cheaper and more effective ways to deal with back pain.

Operations are getting more complex, meaning they’re riskier. Despite this, there are still plenty of people going under the knife.

There has been an increase in complex surgery, which may increase the risk of major complications however provides no additional benefits to the traditional decompression surgery.

US journalist and author of Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, Cathryn Jakobson Ramin says “You can never consider surgery as your best option for ordinary low back pain because an intact spine is always better than a surgically altered spine” (Arnold, 2018).

lower back pain treatments

Back pain is one of the most disabling conditions in terms of cost, lifestyle and work constraints (Radio National, 2018). If back pain is something you’re struggling with, there is hope!

Firstly, let’s take a look at the difference between soreness versus pain related to a lower back condition.

Minor soreness is a natural result of exercise and is characterised by a dull, aching feeling. Back muscles may feel tender or rigid- this is particularly true for those new to exercising. Soreness from exercise should subside from 24 to 72 hours.

Pain however, is your body’s way of telling you you’re doing something wrong. This pain is generally moderate to severe, and often results in restrictions to your day-to-day functioning.

If you’re completing an exercise and are in pain (rather than feeling sore), you should consult a health service such as a doctor or physiotherapist. The pain is most likely occurring because:

  • You are performing the particular exercise wrong
  • The exercise you are performing is not designed for your lower back condition
  • You have another injury or significant lower back pain you are not aware of (Dipan Patel, 2018)

Years ago, a person experiencing back pain would be advised bed rest and immobilisation of the back. However, research over the last 10 or so years has shown that inactivity weakens the muscles supporting the spine and, if continued, can prolong recovery or even make certain conditions worse (Dipan Patel, 2018).

It’s time to rethink pain.

When it comes to chronic pain, pain can be more severe as fear of re-injury heightens (Arnold, 2018).

While back pain can affect anyone any age, some may be at more risk than others. People with other chronic conditions, including asthma, chronic headaches, and diabetes, are more likely to report low back pain than people in good health, those with poor mental health are also at increased risk (Ferreira et al., 2013).

Exercise plays an important role in preventing back pain. You may think that exercise will strain your back even more, however the right exercises can actually help- despite the fear of re-injury your brain is holding on to. If you suffer from a lower back condition—like a lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis—your doctor will likely recommend exercise as part of your treatment program (Dipan Patel, 2018).

Around 1 in 6 Australians have back pain each year.

Most are of working age, and an equal number of women and men are affected (, 2018). While back pain can improve in a few days or weeks, sometimes it hangs around a lot longer.

If you’re experiencing back pain, it’s important not to restrict your movement too much. Even if your back is very painful, slow and gentle movements are better than lying still in bed. If you keep your back moving, it will become more supple and flexible (, 2018).

If you’re experiencing unusual or long-term back pain, you should visit a health service. If you receive the all clear from a doctor or physiotherapist, you are safe to move. You may think that any movement will cause the injury to reoccur, however if you consult a physiotherapist they will suggest activities that you should be able to manage, and that your doubts are based on fear of re-injury and are not on  actual evidence. It’s not to say that the pain you experience is imagined, it’s just due to physiological changes in the brain, that actually influence the amount of pain that you may experience (Radio National, 2018).

movement back pain

Developments in neuroscience indicate that the brain creates pain as a mechanism to protect us (Arnold, 2018).

Exercise increases muscle flexibility and strength and promotes healing by increasing blood flow to the injured site. Healthy muscles provide protection to bones and joints (Dipan Patel, 2018).

Reasons to see a physiotherapist about your lower back pain:

  • To get relief from pain
  • To develop an individualised exercise program
  • To learn proper exercise technique and ways to give muscular protection to bone and joint structure

Exercise Physiology is another great option for those experiencing pain from increased activity. If you’re injured; experience low back pain; have conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, PCOS, anxiety, depression or cancer, Transcend Health can help you to improve your health and well-being, keep you doing the things you love, all through living an active lifestyle.

Get your body moving again the way you want

If you’re experiencing back pain and want help with exercise alternatives, get in touch with the Transcend Health team today.

Call 02 4961 3399 or email


Arnold, A. (2018). The lowdown on treating lower back pain without drugs and surgery. [online] ABC News. Available at:

Dipan Patel, M. (2018). Exercising with Lower Back Pain: Should You Work through the Pain?. [online] Spine-health. Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2018]. (2018). Back pain. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jun. 2018].

Clark, S. and Horton, R. (2018). Low back pain: a major global challenge. The Lancet, 391(10137), p.2302.

Ferreira, P., Beckenkamp, P., Maher, C., Hopper, J. and Ferreira, M. (2013). Nature or nurture in low back pain? Results of a systematic review of studies based on twin samples. European Journal of Pain, 17(7), pp.957-971.

Radio National. (2018). Rethinking what’s best for low back pain. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jun. 2018].

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